This policy report is a product of a series of round table discussions organized by:

For questions or concerns regarding the findings of this report, you may contact:
Ramie Toledo
Communication Manager
Institute of Autonomy and Governance

Executive Summary

This policy report is a product of a roundtable discussion facilitated by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) on 29 March 2019 in Cotabato City where participants from civil society and Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) generated recommendations to ensure a smooth transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The ARMM transition portal has released a trove of transition documents and data the new BARMM government can use in navigating this critical period. This roundtable yielded a number of insights and recommendations based on the information contained in the ARMM Transition Report. The most critical are the following:

  • The ARMM government has already procured more than Php10-B worth of infrastructure programs for 2019 through the Department of Public and Highways (DPWH). These procured programs would have just to be awarded in due time. As of March 2019, however, no procurement has been made by the BARMM government. That means the allocated money could be forfeited and reverted back to the national government. The BARMM government has the option to prevent this from happening.
  • While the block grant is a welcome development, it should be noted that in the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the powers granted to the BARMM are “subject to national laws”. Possible clashes of contention on laws may more often arise in national offices asserting application of national laws in BARMM governance and operations over the BOL (RA 11054). Hence, the Bangsamoro Parliament has to be more careful in legislating laws to ensure that these are in accordance with national laws to avoid stirring dispute with the national government. If the regional laws passed are not consistent with national laws, chances are they will become “dead laws”.
  • There are fundamental questions that need answered to ensure a smooth implementation of the BOL. How does the BARMM evolve a relationship with the national government? Would it be through the intergovernmental relations (IGR)? Would it be better through devolution as was in the previous ARMM? Will an executive order of the President with his strong political capital suffice? What exactly is the relationship between the Chief Minister and the Speaker, the BTA and the Cabinet, the Speaker and the Parliament?

From a more general discussion of the issue of transition, the roundtable also produced the following recommendations:

  1. Set up intergovernmental relations (IGR) as soon as possible. Setting up the IGR and activating the IGR body will help clarify the potentially contentious legal issues on the boundaries of autonomy granted to the BARMM and guide the BTA – Bangsamoro Parliament as to the drafting of legislative laws consistent with the national laws.
  2. Capacitate the BTA. BTA Members appointed by the President come from diverse background. There are lawyers, engineers, politicians, former revolutionaries, and even a ground commander. They need to level off and build a strong team for BARMM to be up to a good start. Civil society organizations like IAG in tandem with government agencies like OPAPP can help facilitate efforts in this regard.
  3. Track the gains of the transition against the very limited timeframe. The view that the three-year timeframe allotted to the transition to BARMM is too short resurfaced in the RTD. The BTA should revisit this issue, fast-track the process and formulate recommendations to the national government through the IGR body if needed while managing people’s expectations to ensure a successful transition.
  4. Establish BTA role in Marawi rehabilitation. The erstwhile ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) had allocated funds for Marawi. Now it’s up to BTA to continue ARMM’s efforts for Marawi and put in place a concrete program to fully rebuild the war-torn city.
  5. Clarify timeline and procedure in the reorganization of ARMM bureaucracy. Pursuant to BOL (RA) 11054, there will be gradual phase-out of offices and positions when BARMM shall have adopted its own Administrative Code. The BTA then should fast-track the crafting of its Administrative Code, Civil Service Code and Election Code. In the end, there should be a clear-cut policy on the status of those holding career positions to be covered by the Transition Plan.
  6. Formulate clear framework on Trade, GOCC, Minerals, and Infrastructure. Moro negotiators aimed high enough in the policy bargaining on the wealth-sharing scheme, as well as the Bangsamoro Government’s regulatory functions on conventional trading and the traditional barter trading, and its operational regulatory control over power utilities and Government Owned- and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs). But the BOL is not very forthcoming on wealth-sharing supervisory power over barter trading. Its regulatory powers over energy utilities, GOCCs, economic zones and fishery resources, unlike the ARMM, are all unclear.
  7. BTA must continue protection of labor conditions and prevent unfair labor practices in the BARMM. Some ARMM line agencies are also members of the Regional Tripartite Wage Board, and there are no labor and wage issues arising from employers-workers relationship, thus far.
    Wages from private corporations for the region’s local farmers as workers and employers of plantations are nowhere within the realm of disputes. The BTA should ensure that good labor practices in the BARMM continue.
  8. Develop catch-up program for underperforming LGUs, taking into account the challenges posed by violent extremism in some localities. If good governance is to be gauged by the number of LGUs in the ARMM that received the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG), the BARMM has a lot of catching up to do. To be awarded the seal, an LGU must meet the standards set in the following indicators: (1) Financial Administration, (2) Disaster Preparedness, (3) Social Protection, (4) Peace and Order, (5) Business Friendliness and Competitiveness, (6) Environmental Management, and (7) Tourism, Culture and the Arts.
    The defunct region had only 23 out of 123 LGUs SGLG awardees—a wide gap that could be interpreted as uneven local governance performance. Security issues and the presence of violent extremists have made the situation different for other LGUs that failed to get the SGLG.
  9. Establish framework on indigenous peoples’ rights and protection and management of IP ancestral domain within BARMM. Reports of harassment, even killings, due to land disputes in some IP communities make a case why the national government and Bangsamoro government commitment to uphold the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) should be reiterated.
    The Philippine National Police (PNP) and local officials’ mandates on ensuring safe and secured communities should consider the parameters of conflict management through dialogue by pushing or helping activate traditional or tribal peacebuilding mechanisms and collaboration between grassroots communities and authorities. The issue of ancestral domain needs to be clarified as well.

Download the policy report here.