Chief Minister’s Hour
Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, Bangsamoro Government, Center, Cotabato City
23 December 2020
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmahtullahi Taala Wa Barakatuh.
Honorable Speaker Atty. Ali Pangalian Balindong, colleagues in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament and the Bangsamoro Cabinet, fellow workers for peace and development, my fellow Bangsamoro, isang maganda at mapayapang hapon sa ating lahat.
One year and nine months ago, we convened inside this very hall to set a course towards the future. We swore our moral oath and promised to redefine the future of the Bangsamoro.
We began building the foundation of moral governance.
We were, of course, in anticipation that the transition period will be filled with birth pains, anxiety and uncertainties. By this time, we can already attest that those expectations were dramatically met with the addition of an unprecedented global crisis that would impact all walks of life – including the lives of our people.
I know most of us are already weary because of the extremely unique circumstances this year, but we owe this to our people and the sacrifices made by our dear brethren in the struggle. We cannot put our people’s welfare on hold and so our service continues.
Halfway through the transition period, I am proud to say that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), as the interim Bangsamoro Government, has made remarkable accomplishments as a government for the Bangsamoro people. Accomplishments such as:
- Adoption of the Transition Plan;
- Enactment of Priority Legislation (Bangsamoro Administrative Code and the creation of priority offices);
- Gradual Phasing Out of Employees and Provision of Separation Incentives;
- Institution of a Placement Process for Hiring of Personnel;
- Continuity of Government Services;
- Intergovernmental Relations Body;
- Operationalization of the Moral Governance Agenda through Strengthened Revenue Collection and High Investments Record, among others;
- Turnover of Cotabato City and 63 Barangays that Opted to Join the BARMM;
- Provision of Internal Revenue Allotment to Previously Non-IRA Municipalities;
- Effective COVID-19 Response;
- Capacity Building and Strategic Partnerships;
- Implementation of major reforms and behavioral change aligned with our Moral Governance Agenda
- People-centric banner programs (“Ramdan ng tao”); and
- Thirteen (13) laws enacted by the Bangsamoro Parliament.
On the other hand, the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB), co-chaired by Sec. Carlos G. Dominguez for the National Government and Min. Mohagher M. Iqbal for the Bangsamoro Government, is a partnership worthy of commendation. Since its first consultative meeting in December 2019, the IGRB has met five times.
While the IGRB exerts maximum efforts to cooperate and coordinate, as well as resolve issues in a non-adversarial manner, the complexity of issues and the processes to be observed understandably pose constraints in timely moving forward.
The following are the issues still being discussed in the IGRB:
- Block Grant (Actual Transfer Flow);
- Turnover of National Government Agencies located in Cotabato City to BARMM;
- Nationally-Funded Programs;
- Philippine Congress – Bangsamoro Parliament Forum;
- Delineation of Bangsamoro Waters;
- Creation of the Inter-Agency Committee for purposes of inventory;
- Entry of MILF and MNLF Members into the Philippine National Police;
- Special Development Fund;
- Creation of a Regional Coast Guard Office in the BARMM;
- Creation of a Bangsamoro Office of the BLGF;
- Bangsamoro participation in National Government;
- Transfer of management of existing Nature Reserves and Protected Areas;
- Transfer of real properties owned, controlled, administered or in possession of the ARMM outside its territory to the National Government;
- Transfer of management of historical sites;
- Joint Exploration, Development, and Utilization of Fossil Fuels and Uranium;
- Establishment of a Shari’ah Supervisory Board to promote Islamic banking and finance system and Islamic banking unit in the BSP;
- Intergovernmental Infrastructure Development Board;
- Bangsamoro Sustainable Development Board;
- Participation in Al-Amanah Islamic Investments Bank and SPDA;
- Development Programs and Projects in the BARMM; and
- GOCCs in the BARMM.
The BTA also admittedly still has numerous tasks to complete through the transition period, which by law, is set to end in June 2022. To name a few:
- Enactment of other Priority Legislations;
- Fully-working and functional bureaucracy;
- Established regional-local Intergovernmental Relations Body (Council of Leaders);
- Determination of Parliamentary Districts;
- Clarified Basis for Computation of the Annual Block Grant;
- Exercise of Taxing Powers and Revenue Generation; and
- Transfer of Powers, Functions, Assets, Personnel, and Funds of Concerned National Government Agencies to BARMM.
The challenges that the BTA now face in carefully navigating the transition period are daunting. The transitional environment sets some limitations in instituting changes and reforms in the BARMM, such as:
- The short period for transition provided in the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Studies conducted on peace processes all over the world recommend 6 to 10 years of transition period for a post-conflict government to be fully effective and operational.
- Setting up a parliamentary form of government under a unitary system. The transition involves not merely a change of name from ARMM to BARMM. There are institutional and political changes that must be put in place as we transform into a parliamentary/ministerial system envisioned to be more responsive to the realities of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. This is the first of its kind in the Philippines.
- Implementation of the provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Most of the time-bound provisions of the law have not been implemented even after 1 year and 9 months since the BARMM’s establishment. Those are still under discussions at the IGRB level. The powers and authorities granted by the Bangsamoro Organic Law to the BARMM are not absolutely given.
- Irregular Mode of Transfer of the Annual Block Grant. The Bangsamoro Organic Law unequivocally states that the block grant shall be released without need of any further action, directly and comprehensively to Bangsamoro Government, and shall not be subject to any holdback that may be imposed the National Government for whatever purpose. Such is not being observed for 2020, as the block grant is transferred monthly instead of comprehensively.
- Institution-building and staffing. In its bid to engrain Moral Governance during the transition period, the BTA opened the application process for job vacancies in the BARMM to all qualified candidates through the Bangsamoro Job Portal. This proved to be both helpful and overwhelming. Helpful because it rids of the ills of political patronage, and overwhelming, because of the volume of applications received region-wide. The amount of time and resources spent in going through the applications admittedly contributes to the delay in the hiring process in the BARMM.
- COVID-19. The pandemic situation has enormously affected government services, the economy, and the world as we know it. As with others, it forced the Bangsamoro Government to redirect its priorities, which eventually halted implementation of key programs and projects in the BARMM for 2020.
Most importantly, it is worthy to emphasize that despite the legal process of enacting the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the base documents remain to be the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. In particular, the implementation of the Annex on Normalization provisions of the peace agreements is still a work in progress.
There are eight (8) interrelated components of Normalization, namely: (1) Creation of the Transitional Components of Normalization: (a) Joint Normalization Committee (JNC); (b) Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC); and (c) Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST); (2) Socio-economic Development Program; (3) Confidence-Building Measures, such as Pardon and Amnesty, as well as special programs for the six (6) acknowledged camps of the MILF; (4) Decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants; (5) Redeployment of Armed Forces of the Philippines in the Bangsamoro; (6) Policing in the Bangsamoro; (7) Disbanding of Private Armed Groups; and (8) Transitional Justice and Reconciliation program.
As of the moment there is slow progress in the implementation of the components of Normalization for the following reasons:
- Normalization is a process which follows a sequence. One cannot proceed without the conclusion of the other. Implementation is usually preceded by Terms of Reference and is done by phases.
- We must carefully implement the Normalization provisions with the end in view of achieving a smooth transition for MILF combatants to productive civilian life, and more importantly, attaining peace, justice, and development in the region.
- Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, there is limited movement for peace workers as well as international peace partners who undertake monitoring of implementation. Practically, we lost a year from the three-year transition period which we could have utilized to implement the Normalization process as well as the BOL. We expect that the effects of the pandemic will last for a longer term.
- Funds are scarce. Decommissioning 40,000 MILF combatants would entail around P40 billion from the National Government in the form of cash, socio-economic package, and housing facilities. Due to the pandemic, the National Government is also reeling from shortage of funds needed to run the government and provide funds for its programs and projects nationwide including those for the Normalization process.
- Substantial implementation of all the components of the Normalization process is not only the responsibility of the GPH and MILF but all stakeholders including Congress of the Philippines through legislation and providing ample funds for Normalization.
It is along these exhaustive list and reasons where the recommendations to extend the transition period until 2025 are rooted. As initially proposed by the various civil society organizations who continue to be our critical partners for peace and development in the Bangsamoro, the extension is necessary so that the BTA is afforded sufficient time within which to satisfactorily accomplish its tasks and commitments under the Bangsamoro Organic Law and for the National Government to deliver the pending programs under the normalization process.
Mr. Speaker, esteemed colleagues, we are all aware that for the past few weeks, the conversation in the Bangsamoro circled around the call for extending the transition period. Allow me to take this opportunity to share important updates towards this end.
On November 23, 2020, I together with some members of the Cabinet met with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in Davao City to update the President about the progress of our work here in the BTA, the challenges we face, and opportunities we see as we fulfill our mandate entrusted to us. We also took this opportunity to relate pertinent issues on the normalization process as I have mentioned earlier. The idea is to discuss ways forward that would ensure the success of not only the BTA or the transition period but also of the Bangsamoro Peace Process.
As a true son of Mindanao and to some extent, a Bangsamoro himself, President Duterte acknowledges that the transition period is too short to begin with and he understands the profound reasons behind the call for extending the transition period. Needless to say, however, this would entail amendments to RA 11054 and as such, an act of Congress is imperative.
Shortly after the meeting with the President, we met with Sen Zubiri, the champion of the BOL in the senate, to have essentially the same conversation and hopefully to start the legislative process in the upper house. As expected, the good majority floor leader was also very supportive of the bill extending the transition period. He even initially promised to sponsor this important legislation.
Two weeks ago, the team met with the leadership of the House of Representatives. Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez, and Minority Floor Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano all expressed their support and as a testament to this, the House already created a joint committee to deliberate this important legislation.
As we speak, there are now four House Bills filed in the lower house – HB 8116 by Rep. Loren Legarda, HB 8117 by Rep. Toto Mangudadatu, HB 8161 by Majority Floor Leader Romualdez, and HB 8222 by Rep. Khalid Dimaporo. Several representatives have likewise co-authored the bills and we are expecting that many more will do the same.
Mr. Speaker and dear colleagues, we also had separate meetings with Senate President Tito Sotto and Senators Tolentino, Pimentel, Zubiri, Angara, and Poe. The discussions were very fruitful and many expressed intents to be co-authors once the equivalent bill is sponsored in the Senate upon its resumption next year.
We are aware that there are concerns from some local chief executives. We respect and heard their opinions, after all this is part of our democracy. In keeping with our call for moral governance, there is a continuing engagement with them and with other key stakeholders to address their concerns and promote mutual understanding and cooperation. Our initial engagements showed promising results and I am confident that together, we will be able to move as one for the sake of the Bangsamoro.
With several bills filed in Congress and the unwavering support of His Excellency President Rodrigo Road Duterte and his Cabinet, we are optimistic that we can push through this important goal.
Not for the President. Not for the MILF. Not for the BTA.
But for everyone in the Bangsamoro who believes in lasting peace and development.
My dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for joining us in this dream and for tirelessly representing our people and their hopes. We have come along way, but the road is still a long way to go. We cannot and we must not stop until we build a government reflective of our sacrifices, history, and a proud future for those who will follow, In shaa Allah.
Thank you so much and Wassalam.
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