Policy Conference on Electoral, Governance and Political Reforms in ARMM

By Dr. Ali B. Panda

Davao City, Philippines- The Siad Initiative Governance for Asset Reform, Regional Development ( SIMCARDD), Inc. and Reform ARMM Now Coalition have initiated and conducted policy conference on electoral, governance and political reforms in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from April 27 to 28, 2011 at Grand Menseng Hotel in Davao the3 City. These groups are pushing for the postponement of the ARMM elections.


Around 150 Participants from the five Provinces (i.e., Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-tawi) in ARMM and other concern stakeholders outside the region are in attendants in the said conference. At least 30 of them are Mranao Leaders and academicians. Among them are: Dr. Ali Panda, Datu Ibra Macapanton, Datu Abul Alibasa, Datu Asmarie Labao, Pres. Aga Khan “Bin Laden” Sharief, Chairman Abdullah “Lacs” Dalidig, Administrator Penny Disimban, Bae. Samera Gutoc, Datu Salic Ibrahim, Datu Abolais, Dimaampao, Dir. Radia, Datu Abdul Cader and Eng’r Ansary Nor.

Significantly, Secretary Ronald Llamas, Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs of President Noynoy Aquino, graced the occasion. He said: “I am very optimistic for the postponement of the ARMM election as scheduled.”

Meanwhile, Secretary Jesie Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) are e xpected to come. Abul Alibasa, l Secretary General of the Kabnar, Inc. revealed that “It is high time to institute reform and let ARMM move forward.”

The highlights of the Roadmap for Reforms in ARMM are summarized in the conference hand outs. Among them are the following:

1. Autonomy has been perceived as a unilateral imposition of the national government starting from its ‘constituionalization’ in 1987 and the enactment of an autonomy law that was conflictive with the spirit and intent of previous peace agreements between government and the Moro revolutionary groups.

2. Government, by virtue of its control over the allocation of economic and political resources, has the power to greatly enhance the human security of Philippine Muslims and other marginalized and imppverised populations in Mindanao. But over the years, government seems indifference and unable to earn from lessons in dealing with the conflict.

3. The right to self-determination is a historical and justice issue owing to the First Nation status achieved by the Bangsamoro way before the creation of a Philippine state. The demand for ancestral domain in not a tenurial demand but rather that of having a distinct political territory for the Bangsamoro.

4. RA 9054 amending the Organic Act for Muslim Mindanao (RA6734) did not significantly reflect the intent and spirit of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front and the GPH.

5. Political stability remains elusive because of the unresolved political question of the Bangsamoro homeland, mass poverty and the exclusion of a large number of our people from meaningful participation in ARMM and national government affairs.

6. The credibility of our electoral system and processes is so low because of massive fraud in voters registration, incredible voter’s turnout way beyond the total number of registered voters, and accompanying electoral violence highlighted by the November 2009 Ampatuan massacre.

7. Ridos or clan conflicts have proliferated because such traditional system of justice delivery has not evolved to bring sustainable peace to conflicting parties.

8. Kidnap for ransom, drugs, and other common crimes have risen significantly and has endangered the lives and homes of the ordinary Moro, stunted commerce, and a breakdown of law and order.

9. Internally displaced persons, numbering several thousands, have not been given substantive justice and proper remuneration to their damaged properties and restoration of their way of life prior to their plight.

10. Government employees in the LGUs in ARMM as well as in the region have complained of non-remittance of their contributions to the GSIS and could not enjoy the benefits accruing including the pensions for those who have retired from service.

11. ARMM has lagged behind in terms of economic growth and infrastructure development to the rest of other regions in Mindanao and the country.

12. The ARMM is home to 4.1 million people. Its per-capita gross regional domestic product in 2008 was P3,572 which is over 75% lower than the national average of P15,686. Eith a very low GDP, it assumes that the region has a very low tax base.

13. The 2005 Philippine Human Development Report showed the poverty in the region is a high 45.4 percent in 2003, almost twice the national average of 24.4 percent. The infant and maternal mortality rates are also among the highest in the country.

14. The ARMM overall Human Development Index- meaning life expectancy, overall health and nutrition, literacy, pipil-classroom ratio and pupil-teacher ratio-is the lowest in the country, with the exeption of the Caraga region.

The Roadmap is meant to be a comprehensive and coherent strategy to address the unpeace, arrest public cynicism, provide efficient and effective governance, and reverse the rapid decline of the ARMM as an instrument for achieving the collective goals of the Bangsamoro community and achieving just and sustainable peace.

The Roadmap requires for its realization and implementation the setting up of a Transition Reform Government (TRG) run by OICs appointed by the President who has no vested political interest in ARMM. This Government is a reform-focused, strong, developmental instrument of Change in ARMM. It is strong not in the sense of being authoritarian or arbitrary, but in the sense of being willful in the enforcement of its laws and resolute in the pursuit of its programs. Its principal object is to touhen our institutions, and enshrine the rule of law in our society. The push by the Aquino government for the deferment o ARMM polls set in Auguts 2011 and its synchronization to the 2013 regular elections is an opportunity to push for said reforms.

The Roadmap prioritizes the fulfillment of the people’s minimum basic needs, the termination of corruption and a change in the lifestyles of public officials that mocks the poverty of the Bangsamoro people, violence as a way of governance, and the application of the full force of the law against organized crime syndicates, drug merchants, kidnappers, and terrorists. The Roadmap is informed by a moral vision of social justice, solidarity, freedom, and peace. It places at the center of its framework he development of the Bangsamoro to their fullest potential, and the responsibility of the TRG in ensuring this.

Macapanton Ibrahim, President of the Ranaw Watch, explained that “the Roadmap is expected to be thoroughly discussed and finalized in the conference considering that the representatives-stakeholders from the ARMM are in attendants.”

Sharief, Aghakan discussed “the need to take an account of any future agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, whose peace panel members are now in Kualalumpur, Malaysia pursuing the peace negotiation from April 27 to 28 in search for a new political formula for the “Moro problem.”

In related Development, Abdullah Lacs Dalidig, Chairman of the Muslim Multi-Sectoral Movement for Peace and Development (MMPD), revealed that “in our search for good ARMM leadership, former Congressman Mujib Hataman has been mentioned and endorsed by many civil society groups as one of the qualified Muslim leaders who can manage and deliver the basic services for the Bangsamoro people.”

Inputs of the series of consultations conducted by the SIMCARRD, Inc. and RAN are being improved in this conference.