Should PVE be the first task for the main IGR body in the BARMM?

By Atty. Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco
Non-Resident Research Fellow, Ateneo School of Government
March 04, 2020

The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) issued a report enumerating their achievements for 2019, three among the long list particularly bodes well for the economic prospects of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).[1] The first one is the holding of the Bangsamoro Energy Forum in August 22, 2019 which initiated efforts to develop sustainable energy sources in the region. Second, the holding of the Bangsamoro Tourism Stakeholders’ Summit which signified the importance of tourism in grassroots development in the region. And third, a high investment record for the BARMM which indicates growing business confidence for the region.

The past year has indeed shown that the BTA is fully committed in creating a stable economic environment for the BARMM. And if the BTA continues laying down a strong foundation for the first elected Bangsamoro Parliament in 2022, the status of the BARMM as the poorest region in the country could dramatically change within the decade.

Yet this positive trajectory can still be scuttled by spoilers, the most dangerous and imminent of which is violent extremism (VE). There can be no doubt that another Marawi siege type of incident will be a huge setback for the BARMM. Therefore, preventing VE or PVE must be a high priority for the BTA.

Pertinently, one of the reasons why the national government is still struggling with PVE is “poor coordination” within the government in addressing this particular issue.[2] On the national level, this lack of a unified approach is supposed to be remedied by the adoption of the National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NAP PCVE), with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) tasked to lead its implementation. Indeed, given the depth and breadth of violent extremist threats in the Philippines, experts and scholars agree that there is an urgent need to “harmonise all intra- and inter-agency programmes, plans and activities ranging from counter-radicalisation to counterterrorism”.[3]

Notably, this need for coordination and cooperation between different orders of government is not unique to the Philippines. The growing complexity of government mandates such as PVE means that roles and responsibilities between levels of government are no longer clear cut and that mechanisms were required to establish definite policy positions, accountabilities and administrative protocols between them. Making Intergovernmental Relations or IGR an integral component of good governance, coherent public policy making and efficient delivery of public services.

IGR is explained in academic literature as “the processes and institutions through which governments within a political system interact.”[4] IGR mechanisms “seeks the achievement of common goals through alignment and cohesion across all levels of government”.[5] Notably, it is widely acknowledged in academic literature that IGR mechanisms can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of policymaking by avoiding redundancies, duplication, unreasonable fragmentation and ineffective amalgamation.  While IGR is traditionally associated with federal systems, often being been described as the “lifeblood of federalism in practice”, many scholars maintain that IGR mechanisms can and do play a key function in unitary systems with embedded decentralization arrangements such as the Philippines.

The reality is governments are now mutually dependent in many regards. Responsibilities overlap, policy areas interact, and many public issues cut across several governance competencies. Pertinently, these interdependencies have only increased and have become even more complex as perfectly exemplified by the NAP PCVE. And if indeed the main obstacle in PVE is the problem of coordination amongst government instrumentalities, then it behoves the BTA to pay particular attention to the IGR mechanisms established by the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), more specifically the National Government-Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body or the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) which deals with the relations of the Bangsamoro regional government and the national government.

The IGRB is co-chaired by Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal for the BTA and by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III for the central government. The IGRB met in December 2019 and as per the Terms of Reference (TOR) agreed upon by the parties, below is the full composition of the IGRB. (See Article I, Section 2)

BARMM side:

  • Bangsamoro Parliament Speaker (Ali Pangalian Balindong)
  • Executive Secretary (Abdulraof Macacua)
  • Cabinet Secretary (Mohammad Asnin Pendatun)
  • Interior and Local Government Minister (Naguib Sinarimbo)
  • Public Works Minister (Eduard Guerra)
  • Social Services Minister (Raissa Jajurie)
  • Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform Minister (Mohammad Yacob)
  • Transportation and Communications Minister (Dickson Hermoso)
  • Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Minister

National government:

  • Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (Carlito Galvez Jr)
  • Socioeconomic Planning Secretary (Ernesto Pernia)
  • Interior Secretary (Eduardo Año)
  • Defense Secretary (Delfin Lorenzana)
  • Public Works Secretary (Mark Villar)
  • Energy Secretary (Alfonso Cusi)
  • Agriculture Secretary (William Dar)
  • Transportation Secretary (Arthur Tugade)
  • Cabinet Secretary (Karlo Nograles)

The IGRB can certainly be a venue for cooperation and collaboration between the national government and the Bangsamoro government in both policymaking and implementation. More specifically, the TOR of the IGRB provides that one of its mandate is, “Coordinate and resolve issues relating to or arising out of the implementation of national programs and projects of the National Government programs in the BARMM.” (See Article II, Section 2(b)) Therefore, the proposition of designating the establishment of a PVE framework in the BARMM as the first task for the IGRB makes a lot of sense. PVE requires a concerted and collaborative effort after all. Plus, a viable PVE framework is crucial to the BARMM’s economic prospects. And more importantly, the enhancement of regional security is part of the 12-point agenda set by the BTA for the transition period.

It is worthy to note that the fundamental purpose of the NAP PCVE is to foster cooperation and coordination amongst government agencies, the private sector and civil society in implementing PVE in the country. It particularly aims to provide a coherent framework for policy and programming at the national, regional and local levels. Given the composition of the IGRB, it is well positioned to craft a strategy pursuant to the NAP PCVE for the BARMM. More importantly, the IGRB as composed is likewise well-placed to utilize the various studies and analyses on PVE and counterterrorism undertaken by think-tanks and academic institutions in the region. To put it simply, it is the IGRB which can operationalize the whole-of-government approach imposed by the NAP PCVE while being guided by evidence-based research already on hand.

However, to be truly effective, the IGRB must ensure that it has a completely functioning secretariat as mandated by the BOL. This must be a permanent office that is fully staffed by qualified and competent civil servants. Note that the secretariat will often function as the “engine room” where detailed work is done, both through formal meetings of officials as well as through personal relations and informal interactions.[6] Hence, the need for staff who possess high level consensus-building skills.

More critically though, pursuant to the principle of subsidiarity, which is an unwritten but accepted mandate in the BOL, the IGRB secretariat must be headquartered in the BARMM. IGRB meetings can be held elsewhere if the circumstances warrant it. But the IGRB secretariat must be based in the BARMM because ultimately it will be accountable to the Bangsamoro people.

Lastly, the IGRB must internalize and institutionalize these IGR core elements. The first one is that there should be mutual respect between the different levels of government. There must be an unequivocal recognition of each side’s authority and accountability. Second, there must be an ethos of interdependence. Each side must see the need to cooperate and collaborate to achieve the intended goal. Third, the IGR mechanism must be a platform for civic participation. Hence, there must be space for civil society organizations to engage in the policy-making process as well as in the implementation phase of any development program.

The IGRB is an innovation in the BOL which has the potential to bring a lot of good changes to the BARMM. But to be able to do, it has to remain true to the principles of IGR. And taking up the very urgent issue of PVE as its maiden task could be a way for the IGRB to start laying the proper foundation for it to become an effective IGR mechanism.


Atty. Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco is a senior fellow of Access Bangsamoro and a Non-Resident Research Fellow of the Ateneo School of Government. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Access Bangsamoro, its proponents, or affiliates.


[1] See https://bangsamoro.gov.ph/latest-news/2019-bangsamoro-government-made-significant-strides-in-governance/?fbclid=IwAR0cCo552rDNPUEcTiIKnVAWOkgysCGBvNtMVvSsGN4fxhY7dAvo3wBQKFs

[2] See https://www.counterextremism.com/countries/philippines

[3] Ricardo F. De Leon, Marlon V. Rufo and Mark Davis M. Pablo, August 2018, “Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism in the Philippines: Grassroots Empowerment and Development of Homeland Security Framework”, Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses, Vol. 10, No. 8, pp. 10-17, 16.

[4] Phillimore, John. 2013. Understanding Intergovernmental Relations: Key Features and Trends. Australian Journal of Public Administration. 72 (3): pp. 228-238.

[5] Chakunda Vincent and Ogochukwu Nzewi, 2018, ‘Intergovernmental relations in federal and unitary nations: A framework for analysis’, International Affairs and Global Strategy, Vol.60.

[6] Poirier, J. and Saunders, C. 2010. ‘ Comparative reflections on Intergovernmental Relations in Federal Countries.’ In R. Chattopadhyay and K. Nerenberg (eds.), Dialogues on Intergovernmental Relations in Federal Systems. Booklet Series Volume 8. Ottawa: Forum of Federations and International Association of Centers for Federal Studies: 3– 8, 6.