IN ANY new government, there will always be a fair share of opinions regarding its inception. As public servants, we are beholden to the will of the people. My fellow members in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority are all trying to find their way in this new space that we are in – meeting and greeting with Ministers, sharing our ideas in what we envision as a model Bangsamoro state.
We are always open to new ideas, comments, and suggestions so long as they are well informed. I was reading this article by Bobby M. Tuzaon in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and it caught my attention. It is interesting to see the perspective of someone who is in the outside, looking in. What must our proceedings look like to our fellow countrymen, who, while not Bangsamoro, are also invested in our national welfare?
My initial thought on his article is that there is more than what meets the eye, especially regarding what the Bangsamoro needs to focus on during this transition period. He mentions the transition and the balance that we all must make in the BTA in order to see it to fruition. There are many ways that we can do that, and he suggests that one way to do so is in agrarian reform.
It is true that any state requires land. It says so in the 1987 Constitution and is re-echoed in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and in R.A. 11054. As the bedrock of our new region, we must also be careful when we decide on what constitutes land and how we label it.
In the Bangsamoro, unlike in the European feudal system, our relationship to land and our ownership of it are totally different. Kinship has always been a strong player in our politics and in our government, whether we like it or not. When I say kinship, I do not mean it in a sense of how political dynasties are run—our societal and cultural dynamics reflect the ties of kinship and family across all different sectors. It would be incorrect to say that peasant-landlord dynamics are what run in the Bangsamoro.
While land is and has always been valuable to the people of the Bangsamoro, there are also other aspects of reform that Mr. Tuazon –and the rest of us – also need to consider. In the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the transition from ARMM to the BARMM shows two major tracks to autonomy. Those who are in the political track are well aware that the implementing law has been passed, is now ratified, and is now in the hands of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. Our mandate, then, is to ensure that both governmental structures and legislation enabling a functioning public sector is in place.
However, we must also place focus on the normalization track. There are several phases of normalization, including the implementation of socioeconomic welfare programs, the decommissioning of firearms, and the social justice and amnesty process for some 40,000 former combatants. This must undergo a multi-sectoral approach, constituting all facets of public and private life, and must be symbiotic with the political track in order to truly advance the welfare of the Bangsamoro.
Who are the “players” that must be present, then? As a member of the BTA, I am neither a member of the MILF or a traditional politician in that sense. My background is in the academe and in development, and it is in that lens in which I can contribute best. Our body, while both an implementing and legislative one, must also have a third function; that is, to listen to the voices and the narrative of our people.
Simply hegemonizing the challenges that come our way only seeks to dichotomize us; me versus you, us versus them. There is an interplay of many narratives that we must all take note of, whether it is from outside the Bangsamoro looking in, from within our people, and from those who have our best interests at heart.
In ratifying the Bangsamoro Organic Law, it was not one party or sector that can lay claim to its result. It is the people of the Bangsamoro, and the rest of the Filipino nation, whether inside the core territory or not, who can claim ownership of it. It is a victory that belongs to all of us, and this we must also view any issue from different angles and lenses. Only then can we find solutions that can help to rebuild the Bangsamoro, one narrative at a time.