Good governance and the Bangsamoro-A A +A
Saturday, October 27, 2012
THE signing of the Framework Agreement (FA) on the Bangsamoro on October 15, 2012 by representatives of the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was greeted generally positively by many quarters -- a far cry from the starkly divided response to the MOA on Ancestral Domain in 2008. But not without the caveats and specifications that are to be expected in discussions of critical matters such as the peaceful and hopefully final resolution of violent conflict in Mindanao.
For instance, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) hailed the FA and said that good governance in the Bangsamoro should be ensured. That this is an expectation from stakeholders is not surprising; but this specification necessarily raises the question, what will constitute good governance in the Bangsamoro? And as in other critical matters, who puts forward the caveats and specifications will be as equally important as, and could even define what is advocated and why. To be sure there are tenets of governance widely held to be desirable, such as respect for and promotion of human rights -- an aspect covered by the FA. But good governance, though a widely recognized notion, is also subject to political, cultural, economic, technological and other influences.
Characterizing good governance in the Bangsamoro will thus also depend on who defines it. If outsiders were to be asked, it is likely that the slew of anticipated answers would include democratic elections and contemporary public administration. But if Moro communities were to have their say, would they readily make the same choices? In the past, the use of traditional, indigenous and even religious leadership and governance structures and processes were suggested in Armm, and were thought of by some quarters to be narrow and inconsistent with the rest of the country. But the superiority of mainstream and legislated structures and processes is not beyond doubt, having been put to question by experiences, a number of them in Moro communities. Why then would we assume that those communities would go for the same options, now that they have a chance to define the Bangsamoro? If we equate with good governance elections that are not representative of the choices of the electorate, why would we expect citizens in the Bangsamoro to put a premium on it?
The Framework Agreement provides for an electoral system; but we do have to think back to Maguindanao in 2004, which showcased automated voting later proven rigged to influence the outcomes of the national elections. What then needs to be not done, done better or done differently to avoid a repeat of the same fiasco? If by good governance we refer to the rotation among politically and economically entrenched families that, if not distant from communities, are condescending to them, why would we think this is superior to and more preferable than traditional leaders managing local affairs (assuming that they receive the proper orientation and capacity building support)?
Transparency and accountability measures for the Philippine public sector abound but in many instances these have only made scalawags more creative. Although the situation is improving, the battle with poor performance, graft and corruption has not yet hit the point where the positive changes cannot be undone. If by good governance is meant structures and processes of public administration consistent with the rest of the Philippine Government without effectively addressing the development challenges that are the scourge everyday of citizens and communities in Armm and the expansion areas, why would this be considered a positive set-up over local ones? What would be the value of having their own ministries if the Moro people's access to water, health and education services will depend on external providers such as national agencies, official development assistance programs and non-government organizations? Why not let the Bangsamoro be the great undertaking in innovation, resilience and growth that the Moro people could grandly call theirs, this time with less blame for external factors and more stake over and ownership for their own results? Far from being a blanket endorsement of all things traditional, indigenous and local, this is a call for careful, deliberate and inclusive consideration of the governance arrangements in the Bangsamoro and to avoid the automatic use of current practices (even those considered as good and replicable) as the benchmarks and standards.
The MOA AD failed for a number of reasons; it was not well understood and many stakeholders did not regard it as the embodiment of their aspirations. The framers of the Basic Law should learn from that and see to it that the leadership, accountability, service delivery and participation arrangements of the Bangsamoro are shaped by and capture the imagination of those who are to call it home; and that these are understood, respected and upheld by all those around them. Effective consultations are called for as part of the process of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law. But it will not be enough that people are asked -- who are asked, who asks them, when, and how will also matter. A lot will also depend on what those who initiated the consultations (that is, government and the MILF) are prepared to learn and accept from those consulted. The point being that governance, to be truly worthy of the descriptor "good", has to make sense to and benefit primarily the "governed" and to hold accountable those that are "governing". (Mags Z. Maglana)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 27, 2012.