PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona) last Monday, July 22, and there were a lot of good outputs that we as Filipinos and as a community can learn from. He discussed about his policies regarding drugs, crime, peace and order, infrastructure and development. One of the key policies that have improved from the last Sona is that the Bangsamoro Organic Law has been signed, ratified, and operationalized. With this, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has been abolished in favor of this new regional government.
This is the realization of the decades of struggle to the right to self-determination. The levels of conflict, poverty, and instability in the Bangsamoro regions have prompted that we take charge of our own policies and government.
President Duterte stated, and I quote, “It is my hope that the Bangsamoro Transition will fast-track the establishment of regional government that will secure and comfortable life for Muslim brothers and sisters, and all indigenous communities in the Bangsamoro Regions.”
Now we have the Barmm, the BTA, and the ministries that are doing their best to give to the people what is due to them. This also includes the parliament that is trying to fast-track the creation of laws such as the Bangsamoro Administrative Code, the Bangsamoro Revenue Code, the Bangsamoro Electoral Code, the Bangsmaoro Local Government Code, and the Bangsamoro Education Code.
The national government needs to work with the Barmm to achieve their goals in terms of political and fiscal autonomy. In order to do this, we must look at the national laws and see how they can be adapted for the Bangsamoro.
Section 10, paragraph 5 of Article XVI of the Bangsamoro Organic Law requires “an inter-agency committee headed by the Office of the President, and composed of the Department of Budget and Management, Commission on Audit, and Civil Service Commission, shall conduct the requisite inventory to ensure that the liabilities of the Autonomous Regional Government in Muslim Mindanao...” In short, the law requires that an interagency audit team an audit of all funds, capital assets, obligations before the Regional Governor of the ARMM can formally transfer to the BTA all the financial documents in the ARMM. Unfortunately, this was not properly conduct.
This transfer should have been accompanied by the audit report done by the inter-agency team and should have included the DBM has been alerted of these funds, and this balance needs to be transferred immediately to the Barmm accounts. As of yet, there is still no transfer to the BTA, save for the ceremonial one received by the Chief Minister before the organization of the BTA.
Without these proper directives and transitions from the national government, we as members of the BTA also cannot move forward with our proposed policies. Progress is a two-way street, and we must also be aware of the procedures that must be done in order to move forward.
Proper communication and a strong secretariat are crucial in the relationship between the national government and the Bangsamoro. It is in this process where we gain trust, confidence, and transparency regarding the political process.
The state of our nation, of our Bangsa, depends on how we envision the next three years of our transition. To end, President Duterte emphasized that “Our goal for the next three years is clear: a comfortable life for everybody, all Filipinos. We have made significant strides and accomplished signal milestones as a nation in the past three years. This momentum must continue with greater fervor in the next three years and beyond.”