WHEN you work with the government, you will inevitably have a lot of questions regarding all matters in the political process. As I watch my fellow MPs discuss matters of state, I cannot help but ask myself what motivates each person in this room. What makes us want to pursue this line of work? What makes the Bangsamoro, Bangsamoro?
This question lingered inside my mind all throughout last week when I attended the Bangsamoro Parliament Sessions. Defining this question is as important as how we defined the tenets of R.A. 11054 that created the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The law defines Bangsamoro as ““Those who, at the advent of the Spanish colonization, were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands, whether of mixed or of full blood, shall have the right to identify themselves, their spouses and descendants, as Bangsamoro.”
I am sure many of us have their own definitions of Bangsamoro. But for me, I envision Bangsamoro as a multicultural and multi-ethnic meritocracy that follows and practices moral governance. This means that all government and community leaders are accountable for their actions, and that social justice exists and is enforced by all sectors of society.
This is still a vision, not an actual reality as of now. Hence, it needs to be operationalized in the way we run the region. The principles that I mentioned need to be taken seriously by all its inhabitants and all who ascribed as a Bangsamoro.
We cannot define the future of Bangsamoro based on what happened in the past. We cannot take credit of the accomplishments of Sultan Kudarat and all our heroes. Their contributions to our society are because they had such an ironclad sense of identity and duty to their people.
It is in here that they were able to contribute to our history and in building the distinct Bangsamoro identity that we know today. When our forefathers fought for our freedom, they also defined the reason why we have even the term “Bangsamoro.” The principle of the right to self-determination is the core of their struggle.
For me, this makes the Bangsamoro, Bangsamoro.
In exercising this right, the essential issue for us is existential; not just what we do as a citizen of the Philippine Republic, but also what to not abandon what we are at our core: a Muslim-majority, multiethnic, and multicultural population.
But, as of now, we face the huge challenge of governing the region because of nepotism, family feud, and distorted views of datuism that leads to kakistocracy. A kakistocracy is a system of government that is run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. This is something that I have observed in many families, even mine; When my family and relatives heard that I will be appointed as a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, I received a lot congratulations and at the same time applicants from my relatives who want to work in the Barmm.
I told them that as long as they are qualified and have the right character in wanting to serve our people, then they will have a space in my office. However, I cannot accommodate all of them. In our culture, we are expected to help our family get positions in the government that leads to nepotism and a culture of kakistocracy.
This attitude exists not only within the Bangsamoro but throughout the country. This has created a lot of problems in our government and how we deliver services to our people. My vision for Bangsamoro connects with the vision of Chief Minister Ebrahim Murad of having moral governance in all levels and ministries of the BARMM. This is the only key to turn a kakistocracy into something morally extraordinary.
The Bangsamoro is inherently extraordinary, in our being multicultural and multi-ethnic. If implemented well, our meritocratic government will make us extraordinary. This cannot be done right away, as we also know that we need to navigate this properly so soon. Our people may not yet be ready.
The struggle for the Bangsamoro is indeed, still, an uphill battle. The two Moro fronts, the MNLF and MILF, have struggled and fought the government for several decades. Their communities have suffered because of the conflict and massive displacements that, in turn, caused poverty, poor access to education and basic services.
I have seen signs of partisan politics – some even within the parliament. This is inevitably part of the political process. We need to raise the standards of governance and make sure that we all work for the common good. The Bangsamoro needs to be better at educating our people, not only of our history, but our future. We need to think what lies ahead of us in the future and where do we position ourselves in domestic and international policies. Then, and only then, can we work on the essence of the Bangsamoro identity and how we fit in the world at large.