IN MY previous article, I ask the question, where are the CSOs in BARMM? What role fo they play in the transition? To answer these question, the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia of the Ateneo de Davao University conducted a Workshop on the Role of CSOs in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at the Bitiala Dialogue and Training Center, Sitio Bubong, Barangay Datu Sarip Sinsuat (Kalanganan II), Cotabato City last November 28, 2019.

The said activity was organized with the support of the United Nations – Resident Coordinator’s Office (UN-RCO) which were represented by Ms. Melina Nathan, Senior Peace and Development Advisor and Mr. Krister Fahlstedt, Peace and Development Officer.

The activity was divided into two parts. The morning session was a (1) dialogue with BTAs highlighting the critical analysis of local experts (BTA members) on the Bangsamoro Peace Process and Transition to the new Regional Government. On the other hand, the CSOs participants enhanced the analysis by sharing their own perspectives on the presentations through the (2) Aha – Ehem – Ahu Workshop.

The morning session was in a Bitiala format facilitated by Kenny Lloyd Angon, the Deputy Executive Director of the Institute. I opened the session to share the rationale of the activity. UN–RCO represented by Ms. Nathan also shared their message of support to the activity.

A fellow Member of the Parliament Atty Nabil Tan, former Undersecretary of Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP) discussed about the beginnings and the developments of the Bangsamoro Peace Process. He also shared relevant comparative analysis with other agreements in the country and other countries.

MP Tan also highlighted that CSOs greatly contributed to the success milestones of the peace process and shared about the government’s existing frameworks and policies governing people’s participation in the said cause.

Another Member of the Parliament, Engr. Bai Intan Ampatuan, the former ARMM Regional Planning and Development Office (RPDO) Director presented about a comparative analysis about the ARMM and BARMM, the policies that ensures the need for the engagement of CSOs in the governance of the regional government and its component LGUs and the updates in the BARMM.

She presented some major challenges faced by the BARMM especially on its human resource concerns considering that more ARMM personnel will be faced out and that BARMM still does not have an Admin Code which will be the reference for the creation of positions to be hired by next year to serve as human resource of the BARMM.

She also raised the need for more participation of the CSOs especially in the conduct of consultations in the plans of the regional government. She highlighted the concern that less if no CSOs were involved in the deliberation of the BARMM Budget for 2020.

After their presentations, the CSO participants shared their reactions to the presentations which focused on the need for more social enterprise and local industry development to support the economic development needs of the BARMM, the pursuit for equal representation in the BTA considering some ethnolinguistic groups are not well represented, and the need for accommodating Bangsamoro People outside the BARMM territory who are still open for collaboration.

This activity is just a start of the series of Bitiala sessions of Al Qalam to help the BTA and the BARMM in coming up with concrete programs and activities to help the Bangsamoro. I envisioned that one day, we can have more stakeholders participating with us in this kind of activities.