THE recent community engagement of Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University in partnership with the International Republican Institute (IRI) was a project entitled "Strengthening Local Democratic Governance to Prevent Violent Extremism." This six-months project was focused in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm).
Historically, Barmm has been identified as the center of the Moro insurgency since the early 1960s. The Bangsamoros, for centuries, struggled for their expression of right to self determination even during the early 17th century or the Spanish time.
The project was able to respond in identifying the threats violent extremism by strengthening the efforts of local democratic actors to prevent violent extremism and helping them address localized drivers by strengthening local governance.
The project engaged various sectors/actors in peace process and was able to start the discussion of political party building in the Barmm. Political parties are crucial in a parliamentary form of government which is the current setup in the region.
The discussions in the project highlighted the key value for governance needed in the region. With intensive consultation with members of the parliament and selected stakeholders, they have identified that the key value must follow the basic principles of Islam and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which is, "Service to Humanity, Service to Allah". This is the core value -- an inherent principle of every human being regardless of faith, that needs to be practiced and implemented.
The people in the Barmm are diverse in terms of ethnicity and religious backgrounds, however, Muslims are the majority. The Bangsamoro believes that the key value for governance and political party should be anchored in Islam.
The guiding light for every Muslim is the Holy Quran, the Hadith, and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Time and again, the Holy Quran has instructed Muslims to serve mankind and to help the needs of those who are suffering, or are deprived in any way. It requires Muslims to be selfless and consumed by a love for others. It requires everyone to be ever-ready to make sacrifices for the sake of the peace and well-being of the community and the Ummah.
Political, economic and social order must be so logically designed that serves and protects every person regardless of religion, gender, and race. The creation of Barmm is rooted to the principle of Self-determination by each individual. This is also an essential component for collective expression towards the development of the region.
The mentioned guiding principles can best be implemented through the concepts of a representative democracy based on the following: (a.) strong and program-oriented political parties; (b.) a decentralized state structure with regional autonomy and local self-government; (c.) a "Shariah Compliant Economy" with a well-functioning open market protected by a strong state; (d.) a social security system in place and environmental protection and sustainability.
Based on the output of the project, political parties to be organized in the Barmm must also adhere to an essential set of canons: a. to create a truly functioning Democracy and the Rule of law; b. to build up strong and sustainable political parties; c. to establish a thriving Shariah Compliant Economy; d. and, to work for the adoption and practice the principle of subsidiarity in all structures of governance.
This is a small project conducted in a short span of time. It resonates to what people in the Bangsamoro wants -- a true functioning democratic government. The question now is how do we ensure people on the grassroots of Barmm understand and adheres to the Bangsamoro Key Value?