CAN a person really separate one’s culture from their politics? Just as my own perspective has been formed by my childhood, by my Iranun heritage, and by my experiences in the world of peacebuilding and governance, it will also affect how I believe our government structures and leaders should act.
As a child, I had very strong role models in my life. I had my father, Atty. Tahir Lidasan, whose reputation as an attorney of the masses still commands respect to this day; my relatives who were members of the MILF and MNLF and fought for the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro; the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and many more.
My own personal background is both cultural and political. On my father’s side, I am the grandson of Datu Bara Lidasan, the sultan of Bugasan and the patriarch of the Iranun tribe in Parang, Maguindanao. On my mother’s side, my great-grandfather is former Senator Sinsuat Balabaran. Both were able to carry their cultural backgrounds and their political perspectives in such a way that it echoes down to me and my own family, their descendants.
Despite this, I had difficulty in accepting these parts of my history. When I was growing up, it was martial Law, and the name datu became synonymous with the term warlord. I have also seen violence upend my own family, and have lost close relatives to rido and other forms of conflict.
These experiences have been a guide for how I view an effective, sustainable way of governing. As one of the founding members and officers of the Centrist Democratic Movement (which eventually became Centrist Democratic Party in the Philippines) I believe in the principles of making the government work for its people.
A true democracy is not afraid to go to the grassroots level and to listen, firsthand, to their voices. This means that, in engaging these constituents, the government must remain accountable, morally sound, competent, and transparent. This is so that the humanity of each person is respected and empowered to do good.
These ideals have also affected work as a political appointee of the Duterte administration. As part of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, it was important for me to include these government principles in the concepts of political and fiscal autonomy. It is present in how our future elected officials will be governing, and how financial resources will be distributed.
For most regions in the Philippines, our taxes are centralized and redistributed without considering the individual needs of each region. This has become inefficient and inequitable, putting an unnecessary burden on communities especially in Mindanao.
The principle of subsidiarity -- an organizing principle that seeks to empower the smallest units of society to respond directly and appropriately with the proper resources to do so -- comes to mind. Because of that, resources should be allocated appropriately to each unit of government, including but not limited to local government. This then empowers the LGU’s to act accordingly to their own local contexts, strengthening their power to create effective change.
This form of autonomy is part of what we have aspired for as a people. Now, my fellow appointees to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and I are faced with the even greater challenge to ensure that these structures are consistent throughout the BARMM.
In response, when writing the enabling codes and passages of governance, we must not forget our identities and the people, events, and circumstances that have shaped us. When we incorporate programs and initiatives into our system of governance, we must look at the capacity and potential of each area and how it can help to uplift them. While the process may not be immediate, it will allow communities to uplift each other in unison.
Rather, just as my experiences have shaped me, politics as a man-made structure is also shaped by aspects of our cultural identity. The moment we lose touch with the masses, whose grievances we should address first, then we cannot claim to be a just and moral government. The grassroots communities are the key to lasting peace and prosperity. By serving their best interests, we allow these societies to thrive.