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Peace and Governance: What are the options?
The conflict in Mindanao cannot be simply resolved through the peace process alone. The grievances which help fuel the mistrust among Moro, Lumad, and mainstream Filipino communities, and in turn the resistance of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) against the Philippine government, are partly (if not wholly) the products of ineffective governance in southern Philippines, at the level of both national and local governments. Thus the link is clear: the key to peace in the south lies in good governance. While this may not be a causative relation (that with good governance, peace comes automatically), the effective, efficient, and accountable delivery of public services to communities of Mindanao will lay the foundations on which the future stability and prosperity in the south can be achieved. What must result from the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF should not only be the cessation of hostilities or the redress of grievances both historical and current; it should also result in a governance framework that reliably delivers those social services to Mindanao’s peoples. To be specific, this link between peace and governance can be broken down as follows: • The peace agreement must deliver good governance as an outcome One of the key points being negotiated between the GPH and MILF panels is the subject of the right to self-determination from the Moro and Lumad perspective, or from the GPH perspective, the degree of their autonomy from the national government. Whatever framework may result from these negotiations, it is imperative that the resulting government unit formed by the future peace accord is able to address the pressing social and economic needs of the peoples of Mindanao; to promote peace Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña is the dean of the Ateneo School of Government. A Mindanawon from Cagayan de Oro, he is a human rights and environmental lawyer and a peace advocate. From January to June 2010, he was a member of the government peace panel in the GPH-MILF talks.
and stability among them; to protect their lives and rights, particularly of the marginalized, as well as the environment, and; to enable the region’s economic growth and development. • The peace agreement must have a good governance component This goes beyond merely providing autonomy to the marginalized peoples of Mindanao. The governance framework to be negotiated between the GPH and the MILF should incorporate the best practices of good governance, a strategy to achieve the aims of economic development and poverty alleviation, conciliation among disputing parties—Moros, Lumad, mainstream Filipinos, and the larger insurgency and more localized rivalries among clans—and ensure transparency and accountability. • Good governance builds social capital for the peace process This follows from the understanding that the Mindanao conflict is rooted in poor governance of the region. The mistrust of Moros and Lumad for national government and mainstream communities is born of the marginalization of the former groups. Settling the grievances of all the injured parties and demonstrating a concern for their socio-economic welfare also build support and trust, from a formerly adversarial party to a potentially reliable partner in peace and development. Governance that addresses problems at the community level and engages communities as partners can improve the situation in Mindanao, through innovative governance frameworks. Studies have shown that a sub-national political arrangement often catalyzes economic growth and conflict reduction, while promoting the ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and religious identities of groups—achieving both the objectives of the peace process and poverty alleviation in Mindanao. This new political arrangement is not a top-down handover from the national government, but a bottom-up, free association of local government units (LGUs) around common interests and shared issues. It is similar to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), wherein the mayors of the component cities and municipalities of Metro Manila coordinate on mutual interests, such as traffic and waste management, development projects, and environmental protection. The free cooperation and conglomeration of LGUs in Mindanao can be uniquely positioned to plan and execute socio-economic development projects in their jurisdiction, reconcile conflicting parties of differing traditions, engage the participation of communities and citizens, and build goodwill and social capital for the peace process. Furthermore, LGU association would be a bold precedent in Philippine governance. From the time that Philippine territorial jurisdiction included Mindanao,
much of the policy treatment towards the island-group has been of the top-down approach, leading to a history of conflict.
History of Conflict as a Product of Top-Down Governance Approach
Moro and Lumad Mindanawons argue that, over the course of time, government policy issued from Manila has slowly disenfranchised them from mainstream politics, economics, and society. They feel that mainstream Philippine history has failed to properly place their respective histories in the national narrative. The consequences of this failure, they feel, is their disenfranchisement from their social and political place in Mindanao, as settlers from the rest of the Philippines arrived to displace them from their homeland. It is this history that is one of the roots of the Mindanao conflict.1 Their political disenfranchisement came about as a result of the Treaty of Paris following the Spanish-American War, when Spain ceded Mindanao as part of their jurisdiction to the United States. Conversely, Moros point out that the Sulu and Maguindanaw Sultanates had been self-governing and autonomous from Spanish control until the Treaty of Paris. In addition, Lumad tribes had long existed independently. Neither of these parties had been involved in the negotiations leading up to the treaty. Policies during the American regime and subsequently by the Philippine government reinforced this marginalization. Early on, Christian Filipinos were considered to be in the mainstream and “civilized”, whereas Moro and Lumad populations were on the whole categorized as “uncivilized”. Policies reflected this distinctive division, with the Christian-dominated areas of Surigao and Misamis transformed in 1903 into regular provinces, while non-Christian-dominated areas were subdivided into the two special provinces of Agusan and the Moro Province. The special provinces were considered to be temporary “transition mechanisms” to be transformed into regular political structures after 10 years. Tellingly, regular elections would not be held in these areas until 1957, and only after they were later subdivided into regular provinces. The early governments also encouraged the settlement in Mindanao of nonnative populations, first by declaring vast areas of the island as “public lands” open for settlement, claim, and formal titling with the state. The consequent migration made the native Moro and Lumad populations the minorities in their own traditional homeland.
Rudy Rodil, “Achieving peace and justice in Mindanao through the tri-people approach”, Mindanao Horizons Vol. 1 No. 2010-1
Apart from becoming minorities, the displaced populations also found themselves cut off from natural resources, such as forests and pastures, which were the basis for their economic activity and sustenance. This fueled both their poverty and the later strife between native Mindanawons and non-native settlers. The net consequence of this political and economic marginalization was the rise of demands for self-determination among Moros and Lumad. Among the former, this was expressed by the Bangsamoro independence movements and the subsequent armed conflict between the Philippine government, and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the MILF. Meanwhile, the indigenous non-Moro tribes of Mindanao adopted the Bisayan word “Lumad” (“indigenous”) to describe themselves as a collective and also sought their right to self-determination within their respective ancestral domain, although without seeking independence or secession from the Philippine state. The Philippine state’s policy towards Moros and Lumad later shifted from integration to an attempt to restore them to an improved socio-economic position. What is common in these measures though, is that they were done at the national level, a top-down intervention. For example, there was the creation of minority agencies such as the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes, the Commission on National Integration, the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA), later replaced by National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), and the Office of the Northern Cultural Communities and Office of the Southern Cultural Communities. There was the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, which was necessary because it gave minority tribes a legal channel to secure and protect their rights to their ancestral domain, as well as provided limited self-governance on the basis of traditional tribal rituals and practices. Finally and most prominently, there was the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a constitutional acknowledgement of the Moros’ demand for self-determination, expressed in administrative and territorial terms. While introduced at the national level, on-the-ground level implementation has shown weaknesses in government’s attempts to address minority grievances in Mindanao. Corruption, combined with an environment of intense local rivalries, political warlordism, poverty, and insurgency, stymied governance and economic development in the south. Amina Rasul, in a 2007 paper for the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, wrote that some sectors perceive the ARMM to be a failure due to “corruption, inefficiency, and nepotism.”2 Mindanao corruption also diverted resources that could have been spent on important services: education, health, and
Amina Rasul, Broken Peace: Assessing the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement, PCID, 2007
alternative livelihood opportunities for the poor. Intense localized conflicts like rido (clan rivalries) complicated the security situation through armed groups and weapons trafficking. Yet another weakness of the ARMM is its dependence on the national government for budgetary support. When coupled with the region’s insurgency and localized political rivalries, this leaves the ARMM budget vulnerable to manipulation and abuse for political considerations. As a consequence, ARMM falls short of delivering adequate basic services to Mindanawons in its jurisdiction. IPRA, too, has its share of weaknesses and loopholes. It comes into conflict with other laws related to mining, the environment, and indigenous peoples (IP), and it is not clear which laws, procedures, mechanisms, or interests take precedence. For example, the state’s priority for mining of strategic minerals at times involved setting aside IP or environmental concerns when the mineral deposits were located in an ecologically or culturally protected area. It is not made explicit whether environmental laws or IPRA take precedence over the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. As it stands, strategic minerals found even in IP ancestral domains are still considered state-owned under the law. Implementing IPRA has been hamstrung by a lack of budgetary support to expeditiously process all the certificates of ancestral land title (CALT) and certificates of ancestral domain title (CADT) applications.
A Vision for Governance in Mindanao
This history shows the diversity of political, economic, historical, and cultural interests that lie behind the Mindanao conflict. Poor governance alone may not have been responsible for the shape of Mindanao today, but it amplifies the negative effects of this conflict of interests. Good governance, however, sets the foundation for lasting peace. This governance is not just about economic development or raising income levels. The approach that is needed in Mindanao must be innovative and must reach down to the local levels of government, expanding to give civil society ample and unique opportunities to contribute to accountable government and the peace process, and recognizing, even engaging, the diverse political, economic, and cultural factors that characterize Mindanao. The Mindanao 2020 Project, to which this author has contributed, has a Vision Statement that captures this desired governance framework: A culture-sensitive, self-reliant, responsive and accountable governance with each political unit at various levels able to assert internal self-determination, all of them
integrated by a soundly defined relationship of complementarity with each other and with the national government. To break this statement down to its component parts: • Culture sensitivity makes special reference to the Lumad and the Bangsamoro. Being culture-sensitive involves recognizing their distinct cultural identity and history. This plays into economics, politics, and society: protecting their traditional economic resources, such as forests and pasture lands, promoting multiculturalism in the education system, integrating customary and indigenous laws and practices, particularly in the area of conflict resolution and social justice, and in the case of the Moro community, the strengthening of the Shari’ah court system. • Self-reliance is necessary in view of the natural richness that abounds in Mindanao. It is ironic that Mindanao is rich in natural resources, yet it also suffers from the highest poverty incidence rate and the lowest literacy rate. The governance framework for Mindanao must tap these local resources for local benefits—in complete contrast, for example, to the ARMM’s dependence on the national government for its budget. • Responsive and accountable means that leaders at all levels of governance should be accountable to their respective political units. The interplay of conflict, poverty, and corruption leaves Mindanao vulnerable to obstructionist politics and the culture of impunity, a vulnerability tragically made clear in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre. Thus it is important to institutionalize measures to ensure accountability from local leaders. • Soundly defined relationship of complementarity with each other and with the national government refers to the idea of internal sovereignty whereby local government units (LGUs) can decide to cooperate and affiliate themselves with each other based on actual needs, common interests, or shared vulnerabilities. LGU cooperation or conglomeration should operate with the least intervention from the national government, while the state retains traditional authority over foreign affairs, national security, and currency, among others. To reiterate, good governance must also be a product and therefore one of the aims of the peace process. Because of the link between peace and governance, efforts to reconcile the conflicting peoples of Mindanao—Moro, Lumad, and the settlers—must also become an aim of good governance. Government units can play a role in bridging the gaps among these three peoples, particularly in mitigating or adjudicating conflict and complementing the national-level peace talks with a localized, people-to-people approach in order to build direct support for the peace process.
Promoting Free Association of Government Units
In contrast to the top-down approach characterizing the establishment of the ARMM, the bureaus and offices related to minority affairs, and the creation and delineation of political units in Mindanao, an alternative approach would allow and encourage LGUs to cooperate around shared economic or social interests, in order to pool resources together and coordinate effectively on policies and development strategies. This can also be in contrast to proposals (by legislation or referenda) to reorganize the boundaries of political units (i.e., new provinces, cities or municipalities) that might promote political and social tension instead of easing them. Reorganizing political boundaries at a high level will also require Constitutional amendment, which, while possible, is intensive, requiring expenditure of resources and political capital. National LGU policy and strategy should concentrate on encouraging the community of local governments. Devolution and decentralization are Manila’s current policy thrusts, empowering LGUs with responsibilities and powers formerly assigned to the national government. Still, empowerment alone will not do. The LGU envisioned in the 2020 Vision Statement is one capable of acting on its own initiative, with sound guidance and coordination from the national level, able to procure and use its own resources, plan and execute its own policies and development plans, and ensure (apart from the formal security arrangements of the state, e.g. national police and military) the stability and peace of its own jurisdiction. Two examples of such proactive Mindanao LGUs working together in free association include the Lanuza Bay Development Alliance (LBDA) and the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLDA). The LBDA was formed by seven Surigao del Sur municipalities to provide coastal and fisheries management of Lanuza Bay; forest management, alternative livelihood, and tourism campaigns. The LBDA, working with collaborative partners from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), peoples’ organizations (POs) and international aid and donor agencies, is responsible for the ecological management of the bay and the upland forests, providing patrolling and monitoring and organizing ecological awareness programs to protect Lanuza Bay from overfishing and environmental degradation.3 The AVLDA, on the other hand, consists of representatives of Province of South Cotabato (municipalities of Lake Sebu, T’boli, Surallah, Sto. Nino, Banga and Norala), the Province of Sultan Kudarat (Tacurong City and the municipalities of Isulan, Esperanza, Lambayong and Bagumbayan), five national government agencies,
Environmental Science for Social Change, Documentation Report, Building Local Alliances: Strengthening Local Responses To Natural Resource Management And Livelihood Concerns, November 2006.
and one NGO coalition. It was formed in response to intensified flooding of the Allah and Banga rivers, in order to provide coordinated and collaborative disaster risk management planning and execution services. 4 These may be local initiatives for local problems, but the national government can provide incentives to ensure their success and promote similar initiatives across Mindanao. As with the MMDA and the Laguna Lake Development Authority, the government can enable the collaboration of other cities and municipalities as similar authorities in their own right, to enact and enforce necessary policies, generate funds, and execute development projects. With the national government encouraging foreign investment and spurring LGUs to be entrepreneurial in character, Manila can direct investment into Mindanao in a competitive and proactive fashion: that is, for LGU alliances to offer development and business plans which national agencies can then match with interested investors, turning potential investments into an incentive to collaborate. It can also provide technical support such as information, training, communications infrastructure, and bureaucratic powers to make issue-based cooperation among LGUs easier. LGUs cannot freely associate, however, when they are not sufficiently capable of existing and operating nearly on their own devices. The typical Philippine LGU, to date, is still dependent on the national government for resources and technical capabilities, such as planning and monitoring. In Mindanao, this only reinforces the previous history of top-down governance. The challenge for Manila and LGUs alike, therefore, is to build the capacity of LGUs so they can successfully stand on their own and in doing so become ready to cooperate with others.
Building Up Local Government Units
If the aim is for governance in Mindanao to be self-reliant and responsive, then the capacities of LGUs should be up to the task. The present LGU policy is to devolve and decentralize powers and responsibilities to the local level. This policy course must be strengthened with respect to creating Mindanao LGUs in line with the 2020 Vision Statement. • Revenue Generation LGUs must have adequate resources, such as the budget needed to accomplish its mandated tasks. It is necessary to rethink the distribution of taxation powers and
Environmental Science for Social Change, Documentation Report, Collaboration Initiatives Towards Comprehensive Landscape Management and Greater Human Security: Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLDA), December 2006
burdens between the national and local government, as well as the capabilities of LGUs to source and secure funds independent of national government. For example, LGUs can be given expanded and strengthened local revenuegenerating capabilities to reduce their dependence on the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national government. These capabilities would include local taxes and fees for public services and the freedom to apply for loans, aid, and grants from external public and private agencies (banks, aid agencies etc). LGUs could expand their own tax bases through encouraging local investment and economic activity. The town of Irosin, for example, was able to secure funds from the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, elected representatives’ Congressional Development Fund, and a Dutch funding agency to supplement its IRA.5 Alternatively, the national government can reconsider the national-local redistribution of the tax base by retaining more tax revenue in the province or city of collection and remitting a smaller percentage to the national government adequate for national-level policies or prerogatives (e.g. defense, foreign policy, etc.—interestingly, similar to a federal government setup). This will require reconsidering the rationale for having an IRA in the first place or the way allocations are made. A negative impact of this alternative would be that, as poorer LGUs will not be able to generate much revenue from their limited tax base, their budgets would also shrink. They are dependent on the IRA as a supplemental funding source. On the other hand, given the proper assistance, and as seen in the Irosin example, such LGUs may still be able to tap alternative sources, including disbursements from national line agencies, and the national government itself may be able to extend development assistance or loans from the national budget. The Asian Development Bank cites two models for LGUs to consider in raising a budget outside of taxation, aid, or IRA: municipal bank lending and municipal bonds. The municipal bank lending concept, used in Western Europe, should also be familiar to the Philippines: a bank, usually enjoying legal monopolies and interest rate subsidies, from which small borrowers and government units may draw loans. In the Philippines, a similar institution would be the Land Bank of the Philippines. The municipal bond concept, on the other hand, used in North America, has the LGU issuing bonds, like a national financial agency or bank, to be sold in the financial market. 6 In the case of Mindanao, the municipal bond model has a distinct long-run
Philippines-Canada Local Government Support Program (LGSP), Local Economic Development: Stimulating Growth and Improving Quality of Life, 2003: Philippines-Canada LGSP, p. 99
Asian Development Bank, “Local Government Finance and Municipal Credit Markets in Asia”, retrieved on January 8, 2011 from http://www.adb.org/documents/conference/lgfmcm/in1703.pdf
advantage compared to bank lending. The credit rating of a bond-issuing government unit is not strictly measured by its ability to repay a loan but by its transparency and accountability of finances, requiring public disclosure of budget expenditures. Any model of LGU financing may be vulnerable to abuse, while Mindanao LGUs are likely to be inexperienced in participating in financial markets. The national government can step in as an intermediary or guide to facilitate such activity. To minimize the risk of abuse, it will be important to tie bond issuances with specific development projects. • Capability-Building Aside from revenue generation, LGUs also require powers and responsibilities that give them direct access and control over the economic development and management of their jurisdiction. Such capacities include project identification, planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. LGUs must be able to plan, implement, and monitor their respective economic development and environmental governance plans. This will mean the devolution of some responsibilities belonging to national-level agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resource and Department of Trade and Industry, among others, particularly in the issuance of required permits, collection of fees, monitoring, and enforcement. Local governments, for example, can be empowered by the environmental agency to hear cases of environmental degradation in their own jurisdiction, and be given the resources, or be allowed to find the resources to do so. The management of the Barobbob Watershed in Nueva Vizcaya, for example, was devolved from the DENR to the office of the governor. The provincial government thus was able to pursue an innovative plan that deputized informal settlers in the watershed as land and forestry managers.7 Similarly, in Negros Occidental, the provincial government launched Balik Ilahas, a program to protect and improve the province’s forest cover. It enlisted personnel and resources at the provincial level from the DENR, Philippine National Police, and private volunteers as part of a forest protection Task Force. 8 Capability-building also requires improvement in the quality of personnel and practices in LGU bureaucracies as well as that of the political leadership. Continuing bureaucratic reform at the local level, full implementation of Republic Act 9996 or the MinDA Law will provide a coordinated and integrated approach in the formulation and implementation of various Mindanao-wide, inter-regional development plans, programs and projects through the Mindanao Economic Development Agency (MinDA). The establishment of localized training programs and academies for Mindanao bureaucrats
Philippines-Canada Local Government Support Program (LGSP), Watershed Management: Saving Forests, Storing Water for the Future, Philippines-Canada LGSP, p. 67
and politicians will ensure that successive generations of Mindanawon leaders are fully capable of taking the reins. Resources for such trainings are available in the private sector and the academia. • Strategies for Local Development Empowered Mindanao LGUs must take the lead in local economic development (LED). Previous economic policies and strategies were heavily weighted towards large industries or urban areas, leaving the rural provinces and the majority of the Filipino poor out of the loop. LED, on the other hand, is “the process by which actors within LGUs… work collectively to improve conditions for economic growth, employment generation, and quality of life for all.”9 Unlike the industrial or services concentrations of current economic strategies, LED focuses on agriculture, the informal economy, and micro-enterprises, which usually constitute the economic activity of rural provinces and majority of the Filipino poor. LED is particularly suited to the LGU-led development strategy for Mindanao. It emphasizes local employment, poverty reduction, environmental protection, close integration of development plans from provincial level, and citizen and community participation. The LGU has the responsibilities of policy-making and taxation regulation, planning and budgeting, collection, storage, and dissemination of information, as well as marketing and public relations/investment and enterprise promotion, public safety and cultural heritage activities, and the provision of social and environmental services.10 The LGU may also serve as the hub for private and public stakeholders to cooperate and collaborate. While the individual strategies and plans the LGU may adopt are as varied as are the socio-economic characteristics of each LGU, what is common is the promotion of entrepreneurship, employment, and environmental responsibility, to generate business and encourage socio-economic development. The history of Irosin in Sorsogon, provides an instructive look into LED in action. Elected in 1992, Mayor Eddie Dorotan implemented the Irosin Integrated Area Development Program (IAD), bringing together NGOs, cooperatives and LGU and national agencies, to promote agrarian reform, environmental development and agro-based industrialization, combined with people’s empowerment and improvement of basic services. NGOs and POs were involved in the planning stages of IAD and were regularly consulted by LGU agencies. They were also provided with training in both values and skills (managerial, livelihood etc). In five years, Irosin was transformed
Philippines-Canada Local Government Support Program (LGSP), Local Economic Development: Stimulating Growth and Improving Quality of Life, 2003: Philippines-Canada LGSP, p. xii
Ibid, p. xiii
from a depressed, insurgency-ridden fifth-class municipality into a progressive, peaceful fourth-class municipality. 11 • Integrating Community and Marginalized Participation: Community-Driven Development and Tradition-based Alternative Dispute Mechanisms A key to the success of the peace process and economic development is ensuring the participation of the community in governance. The Irosin case shows how multistakeholder participation can contribute to economic development and societal stability. Conversely, one of the reasons for the controversy surrounding the Memorandum of Understanding on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was a lack of public support not only at the national level, but from local leaders as well—reflecting the inability to secure public support as well as the disparity among perspectives among the Mindanawon peoples.12 Peace, good governance, and prosperity will depend on successfully uniting Moros, Lumad, and mainstream Mindanawons across the divides of conflict and suspicion (as well as economic and political differences) towards a common agenda for the region. Governance provides opportunities for citizens to participate and interact with government and with each other on issues of common concern, building goodwill and trust among the parties. On the economic front, this is best achieved with a strategy of communitydriven development (CDD), wherein community-level citizens’ groups are given design, management, and implementation responsibilities over local development projects. One such example is the highly successful Kapit-Bisig Laban sa KahirapanComprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Kalahi entrusts poor beneficiaries with the funds and resources to plan and execute their own sub-projects, with results often faster and cheaper compared to the traditional implementation.13 These projects can range from small-scale infrastructure development (roads, footbridges, housing, utilities, and sanitation), to economic and livelihood development and skills training. It is important to integrate communities in socio-political governance as well. One way to achieve this is to integrate the traditional governance mechanisms of Moros and Lumad into mainstream governance, usually as alternative mechanisms.
Ibid., p. 96-100
Timothy Williams, “The MoA-AD Debacle – An Analysis of Individuals’ Voices, Provincial Propaganda and National Disinterest,” in Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 29, 1, 121-144 (2010): 134-135 Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), “Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services: About Us.” Web page accessed on January 10, 2011, from http://kalahi.dswd.gov. ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22&Itemid=21
These include the Shari’ah court system and tribal-based informal conflict resolution and alternative dispute resolution systems, both of which empower traditional mediators and promote compromises among disputing parties. Tradition-based resolution mechanisms are critical especially in local rivalries based on rido, or clan rivalries. While localized and disconnected from larger insurgencies in Mindanao, such feuds remain capable of destabilizing areas and impeding effective local governance. Such mechanisms will also be useful in settling conflicts over natural resources, such as pastures and forests in ancestral domains. Integrating tradition into formal and legal conflict resolution can be considered as “rules-in-use, or working rules developed by communities through time as part of their adaptive strategies to cope with the challenges of daily living. Enhancing such institutions allows the formal and non-formal practices to draw strength from each other and strengthen the conflict-resolution process.”14 Such integration can be in the form of councils comprised of both elected LGU officials and traditional leaders such as datus, tribal elders, imams or other religious leaders, acting as a mediating body on behalf of and empowered by the Philippine judicial system (or, in applicable cases, the peace process). Integrating the traditional with the mainstream is not without complications, considering that they come from different perspectives (e.g., the religious nature of Islamic governance vis-à-vis secular mainstream governance, in the case of Shari’ah courts within the judicial system). Further research and dialogue will be necessary to understand these differences and how to mitigate them. It is important to be sensitive to the unique cultures and historical perspectives of the Lumad and the Moro peoples as their customs and laws are integrated or adapted into mainstream Philippine policy. Equally important is acclimatizing mainstream Filipinos to any changes in Philippine law as a result, while ensuring that the rights of all Filipinos, regardless of ethnicity, gender, creed, or socio-economic status, are upheld. This research undertaking can become a challenge and a task for law schools in the Philippines, with the involvement of representatives from minority groups in the process. Community dialogues are another mechanism that can be integrated into local governance. Multi-ethnic communities in Mindanao can become a resource for problem-solving, dispute resolution, and citizen participation in governance and development. This can be done in the form of regular town hall-type meetings ranging from consultation to actual policy-making and review.
Wilfredo Magno Torres III, “Introduction,” Rido : clan feuding and conflict management in Mindanao, The Asia Foundation (2007): 26
Finally, Philippine public policy makes provisions for citizen participation which need to be fully implemented. Examples include the Local Development Councils at all LGU levels established by the Local Government Code and the National Anti-Poverty Commission. As with CDD, development must be pursued with a multi-stakeholder approach for maximum impact on poverty alleviation and sustainable development, while promoting transparency and accountability. • The Importance of Electoral Reform These reforms will be fruitless if the electoral process remains compromised and vulnerable to cheating and manipulation. The sanctity of the ballot is critical to good governance and the peace process alike. In Mindanao, the insurgency and intense clan rivalries complicate the task of securing peace and order during elections; the Maguindanao massacre is a grim testament to this. A comprehensive security arrangement will require disarming warlords and demobilizing their forces, ensuring a professional and accountable law enforcement and security force in their place, and rooting out arms proliferation in the region. When elections are held in an environment that is free from intimidation, fear, undue influence, and fraud, the ballot will truly reflect the sovereign will of the electorate. In addition, leadership programs and training institutions are needed to educate a new generation of Mindanao leaders from the three different ethnic groups in governance, human rights, and conflict resolution, among other essential components of leadership. The peoples of Mindanao deserve quality civic education. On election day, voters must be motivated by their aspirations for the region rather than popularity, kinship, and debt of gratitude to local or Mindanao elites. This requires a shift in local attitudes and priorities. Finally, while automated elections have demonstrated advantages in the May 2010 elections, it is important to ensure that the new system works reliably and accurately.
Establishing good governance in Mindanao will create the foundations for peace in the region. The demand for governance is not negotiable. The options, while varied, require further research and careful implementation in a volatile, conflict-ridden environment. The conflict in Mindanao is marked by the sheer density of interests and no simple model of solution can be proposed. The emphasis on bringing the powers and responsibilities of governance as close to communities as possible aims to give the actors in these conflicting interests the means to help resolve Mindanao’s challenges
and restore stability. This is meant to complement the efforts of the national government to bring peace to southern Philippines, encourage economic development, and ensure the social equity of its people. Enabling Mindanao LGUs to take charge of their own destinies can transform the political and socio-economic landscape in this part of the country. Not only will improved devolution of powers at the local level empower Mindanawons and possibly satisfy demands for self-determination or local autonomy, encouraging inter-LGU cooperation will also unite communities divided by ethnicity, creed, history, and economic status in conciliation and compromise. What is required now is the political will to see through this program of governance for Mindanao. Changes in the structure of taxation, LGU relations, powers, and responsibilities of national and local agencies may generate enough political opposition to delay, if not derail, any of the suggested reforms proposed. In addition, it is important to maintain a high standard of transparency and accountability, as LGUs gain powers, capabilities, and responsibilities, to ensure that these are not abused for private gain. Without political will, transparency, and public momentum for change in Mindanao, the results will be detrimental to the region and the country. Without reform, the performance of LGUs will remain weak or lackluster, and their delivery of social services to the people will remain wanting. If Moros and Lumad cannot find adequate space in local governance and development, the Mindanao conflict will intensify, plunging the region into greater instability. A failure to empower LGUs to a sufficient degree may mean that they will be unable to participate in the peace process, creating a dangerous discontinuity between the negotiations and the communities. Finally, without significant governance reform, it is unlikely that both Mindanao and the Philippines will be able to gain sufficient momentum in order to propel themselves forward in the next 15 years, and the region’s sad history may perpetuate itself into its future.
Asian Development Bank, “Local Government Finance and Municipal Credit Markets in Asia”, retrieved on January 8, 2011 from http://www.adb.org/documents/conference/lgfmcm/in1703.pdf Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), “Kapit-Bisig Laban sa KahirapanComprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services: About Us.” Web page accessed on January 10, 2011, from http://kalahi.dswd.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22&Itemid=21 Environmental Science for Social Change, Documentation Report, Building Local Alliances: Strengthening Local Responses To Natural Resource Management And Livelihood Concerns, November 2006 Environmental Science for Social Change, Documentation Report, Collaboration Initiatives Towards Comprehensive Landscape Management and Greater Human Security: Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLDA), December 2006 Philippines-Canada Local Government Support Program (LGSP), Local Economic Development: Stimulating Growth and Improving Quality of Life. 2003: Philippines-Canada LGSP Philippines-Canada Local Government Support Program (LGSP), Watershed Management: Saving Forests, Storing Water for the Future. 2003: Philippines-Canada LGSP Rasul, Amina, Broken Peace: Assessing the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement. 2007: Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy Rodil, Rudy. “Achieving peace and justice in Mindanao through the tri-people approach”, Mindanao Horizons Vol. 1 No. 2010-1. 2010: Ateneo School of Government/Institute of Bangsamoro Studies/ Australian Agency for International Development Torres III, Wilfredo Magno (ed.), Rido : clan feuding and conflict management in Mindanao. 2007: The Asia Foundation/US Agency for International Development Williams, Timothy, The MoA-AD Debacle – An Analysis of Individuals’ Voices, Provincial Propaganda and National Disinterest, in: Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 29, 1, 121-144 (2010): 134-135
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