In 2017, IAG remained steadfast in its tradition of raising the discourse on Bangsamoro autonomy, Mindanao peace and good governance to a level that encouraged inclusiveness, objectivity and social cohesion. We strengthened our commitment and support to developing policies that will translate peace agreements to meaningful autonomy and better governance in the southern Philippines.
We designed our activities to respond to the complexities that came with the unfolding of a new political environment and challenges to the peace landscape made more convoluted with the seed of violent Islamist extremism strewn by the Maute Group and its ISIS-linked supporters in Marawi City that claimed many lives and displaced residents by the thousands in a protracted war it ignited.
The crisis in Marawi propelled us to further expand our programs and services towards improving the capacities of various sectors—especially our long-standing partners, with whom we’ve achieved so much through the years of working together—in tackling the threat of radicalization and violent extremism.
IAG believes violence and extremism are not only a military and law enforcement issue. These are driven among others by weak and failed governance. Our hope remains that our regional and local political leaders seriously work towards making local government units present, transparent, responsive and relevant to our communities.
To bolster our work on the challenges highlighted by the Marawi incident, our ProPolitiCS for Peace project has partnered with the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur in efforts to strengthen inter-leadership dialogue, capacities and cooperation towards countering and transforming violent extremism.
We’ve brought to the table the ever-reliable and available expertise of our senior policy adviser and resident Islamic studies scholar, Fr. Eliseo Mercado Jr., who, in 2017 alone, has presented in four major forums organized by IAG in Cotabato City, Davao City, and the National Capital Region. IAG’s three-part focus group discussion series on violent extremism that started in July 2017 along with the research led by Fr. Mercado will be published by IAG and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Philippines sometime in the middle of 2018.
Our executive director, Atty. Benedicto Bacani, presented in Singapore the findings of the IAG-led “Research On Youth Vulnerability To Violent Extremism In The ARMM”, a collaboration with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue conducted in the first and second quarter of 2017.
Our research head, Dr. Ofelia Durante, presented the same to select audiences in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Bangkok, Thailand. In all this, we underscored the need to develop policies and programs to counter the lure of extremism among the youth, one of the most vulnerable sectors in the conflict-affected areas of the autonomous region. This as we continue to delve deeper into the complex intersection of this issue interfaced with the unsettled question on the Bangsamoro peace front, particularly the BBL, and the floating proposal for a systemic shift to a federal form of government.
Back here at home, we strengthened existing partnerships and forged new ones. Our work with our partners in Congress on the subject of federalism, peace process and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) continued in 2017 via a series of consultations that jibes well with our attempt to foster well-rounded appreciation of the Mindanao problem in the halls of power where policies are debated and made, no less. We thank all the legislators, deputy speakers, their staff and legal teams who sat down in our brainstorming sessions and roundtable discussions on the BBL at the House of Representatives.
We are honored to have partnered with the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) of the House of Representatives in the publication of a case study that reflects actual experiences of people and structures struggling to make autonomy work for peace and development in the ARMM.
A related publication, also published by our ProPolitiCS for Peace project, is a compendium of working papers written by expert international and national political analysts and observers offering policy lenses through which the operation and functioning of the constituent LGUs and the regional government agencies of the ARMM can be viewed and reconsidered in designing the structure and operation of the envisioned Bangsamoro government.
We are grateful to Rep. Nancy Catamco, chairperson of the Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples at the House of Representatives and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) led by Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar for sitting in a consensus-building dialogue we facilitated to ensure rights of indigenous peoples are protected in the Bangsamoro. IP rights provisions are some of the most complex issues in the BBL, but the sheer goodwill we saw during the dialogue gave us enough confidence to follow through this work.
Closer to IP communities, our work with UNICEF Philippines mainstreaming the issues of indigenous youth and children in the Indigenous Political Structure and Local Government Units, particularly in terms of planning and budgeting, already covered three of the five Maguindanao municipalities targeted for mobilization and capacity-building activities.
For the third time since 2015, we undertook together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from the European Union another knowledge-sharing series, this time on the subject of autonomy and federalism against the backdrop of the Mindanao conflict wanting resolution. For this series, we brought on board as partners the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), PDP-Laban Federalism Institute, and the Regional Development Council (RDC) of NEDA-Cordillera.
Officially rolled out in Baguio City in February 2017, IAG’s work with RDC Cordillera is nothing short of a welcome engagement to facilitate two-way learning sessions between ARMM and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) on the policy and practice of regional autonomy on the heels of the resurgent drive towards a federal set-up. We are ecstatic to bridge the North and the South as they explore collaboratively how to achieve meaningful autonomy and good governance in their respective regions.
Two of our major events in 2017 were a toast to the successful implementation of two of our major projects and marked the beginning of their respective second phases.
In January 2017, we bid goodbye to DEPAdev or “Democratic Party Development in the Bangsamoro”, a European Union-funded 18-month project we implemented with our institutional partner, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Philippines, in support of building an empowered civil society, including the development of basic democratic institutions, as a foundation for peace and participatory democracy.
We are thrilled by the commitment of the European Union to bring this project to its next phase to further the empowerment of democratic political parties and civil society groups moving towards the proposed Bangsamoro in lieu of the ARMM. Not long after, in March 2017, we welcomed Phase 2 of DEPAdev building on the accomplishments of the previous 18 months. Now called DELACSE or “Democratic Leadership and Active Civil Society Empowerment in the Bangsamoro”, the project focuses on enhancing leadership abilities of decision-makers and civil society leaders to prepare them for active engagement in the new political framework in the new Bangsamoro political entity.
Our Pro PolitiCS for Peace, short name for our three-year project called “Promoting Political Climate and Stability for Peace”, supported by the Australian Government and implemented by IAG in partnership with the Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA) also concluded in 2017. We held a culminating forum in June 2017 and paid tribute to all the political leaders and civil society partners we’ve engaged with in dialogue, capacity-building, researches and studies enhancing their informed and principled participation in the crafting and implementation of the roadmap and processes for sustainable peace and development in Mindanao.
During its three years, Pro PolitiCS has overcome many challenges bridging political leaders, key stakeholders and peace process mechanisms to promote productive and constructive intergovernmental relations and secure peace in the communities.
The project’s theory of change is simple and straightforward: If Moro political leaders’ diverse views and interests are positively harnessed through genuine dialogue and engagement to constructively inform the peace process, then there will be lesser frustrations and negative perceptions on the process, which would help foster a stable and conducive environment for political reforms to take place. This is because political leaders hold sway over their constituents in their respective communities, and are considered the “gatekeepers” for the success of the peace process and the implementation of peace agreements at the local level. Credible political dialogues toward inclusive governance arrangements will enable key stakeholders to be actively engaged in the implementation of peace agreements and help prevent the recurrence of conflicts.
With the unwavering support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), we brought on board four new partners for Phase 2 of Pro PolitiCS: Bangsamoro Women Services Center (BWSC), Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS), Organization of Teduray and Lambangian Conference (OTLAC), and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).
Under a bigger umbrella now known as ENPOLD Bangsamoro or “Enhancing Political Dialogue for Inclusive Peace in the Bangsamoro”, our partners for the remainder of 2017 worked with the most diverse of stakeholders in the most challenging arenas—in the halls of Congress, media, in conflict-affected areas in mainland ARMM, and in the remote island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to build consensus and ownership of the political reforms and peace process as key to sustainable and inclusive peace.
Speaking of the island provinces, we set our eyes on the five municipalities of Basilan—Hadji Muhtamad, Lantawan, Maluso, Sumisip and Tabuan Lasa— for an 18-month Spanish government-assisted project we hope will result in the five local government units coming together and strengthening their partnership to pursue peace and security and improve governance. We are confident that this collaboration will result in a healthier ecology and more balanced economy to benefit local sectors, the fisher folk and farmers, local businesses, local professionals and skilled workers.
In November 2017, IAG co-presented with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Kusog Mindanaw Conference in Davao City drawing some 75 participants from government, business, academe, civil society, security and religious sectors sharing insights from their respective fields and areas of expertise to generate recommendations on the three-point agenda: the proposed BBL, federalism, and extremism. Since 1994, Kusog Mindanaw has consistently advocated issues that Mindanao’s leaders have built a consensus on: equitable share and role in the national budget and government, good governance and Mindanao peace and development.
The past year has been another testament to the hard work and dedication everybody at IAG invested to make every step we took matter. Our 2018 will be no different.