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A series of discussions on the Mindanao peace process
Special Report No. 3 March 22, 2006
On January 13-15, 2006, a
group of independent observers of
Rufa Cagoco-Guiam
the Mindanao peace process met in
Cotabato City to discuss governance
and institution building for peace
and development. Participating in
The Autonomous Region in Muslim
the discussions were Suharto
Ambolodto of the Institute for
Mindanao (ARMM) and the Peace
Strategic Initiatives, Benedicto
Bacani of the Institute for Autonomy
Process: Imperatives, Challenges and
and Governance, Rufa Guiam of the
Mindanao State University, Fatima
Kanakan, who is Deputy-Governor
for Indigenous Peoples of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim SUMMARY
Mindanao, Abhoud Lingga of the
Institute for Bangsamoro Studies,
Zainudin Malang of the Moro Law
• Almost ten years after the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement be-
and Policy Center, writer and peace tween the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front
advocate Soliman Santos, Astrid (MNLF), the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), acknowl-
Tuminez of the United States Institute edged in the peace pact as the Moros’ vehicle for self-rule in the southern
of Peace and Amina Rasul-Bernardo Philippines, is widely regarded as a failure in addressing the root causes of
of the Philippine Council for Islam the Mindanao conflict. Currently, the autonomous region has the worst hu-
and Democracy. Convenor of the man development indicators among the 16 regions of the Philippines. In the
discussions was the Institute for
ongoing peace process between Government of the Republic of the Philip-
Autonomy and Governance. The
discussions were made possible pines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), this break-
through a grant of the United States away group from the MNLF has reportedly rejected the ARMM model in
Institute of Peace. This report was the crafting of a new Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.
written by Dr. Rufa Guiam, Director,
Center for Peace and Development • The search for an accountable and effective governance structure accept-
Studies, and Coordinator, MPA able to majority Muslims is a work in progress. Two windows of opportu-
Program, Mindanao State University nities are open. One is the unparalleled consensus-building power of the
– General Santos City.
present ARMM leaders, which is potentially a strong force for reforms and
The views expressed in this
report do not necessarily reflect the for maximizing the powers already granted to the autonomous region. The
views of the United States Institute other is the ongoing GRP-MILF peace process, which can potentially cor-
of Peace and the Institute for rect the flaws in substance and implementation of policies for self-rule of
Autonomy and Governance. the country’s Muslims. The key is to go beyond narrow political and group
interests in building a meaningful, accountable and effective institution for
Moro self-determination.
Introduction ............2
Regional autonomy in . . . . . . . 2
• While the MILF’s governance structure and system of justice in its camps
the ARMM from a
suggest some form of models of governance, the application of these mod-
historical perspective
els in the governance of the Moro region is not quite clear. When the MILF
Current realities in the . . . . . . . . 5
talks about the corruption of the moral fiber as one of the serious problems
ARMM – issues and besetting the Bangsamoro people, it has not quite clearly articulated what
challenges raised in the
this means. Neither has it articulated the role of religion in promoting good
MSG discussion
Imperatives and Prospects . . . . . 7
Toward a framework for . . . . . 9 • The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is a concept that needs to have a form
good governance in the and essence. Increasing the levels of public discourse on this idea can help
flesh out its basic elements, building on the successes and learning from the
failures of autonomy in the southern Philippines. There is a need to synthesize
ideas on the ARMM, especially those that look at the experience of autonomy
over the years.


No other region in the Philippines is mired in lowest levels of poverty as the Au-
tonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Its five provinces and one city have consis-
tently occupied the bottom ranks of the country’s Human Development Index (HDI).
“Aside from having higher
No less than a World Bank report confirmed the state of abject poverty in the region in
incidence of poverty, many
its 2003 report, Human Development for Peace and Prosperity in the ARMM. World
communities in the ARMM
Bank analysts stressed that the “…ARMM has the poorest human development out-
are also ravaged by
comes compared to other regions in the country…” (World Bank, 2003).
internecine armed conflict
for more than three de-
Aside from having higher incidence of poverty, many communities in the region
cades, further aggravating
are also ravaged by internecine armed conflict for more than three decades, further
the deterioration of quality
aggravating the deterioration of quality of life of many of the region’s residents. For
of life of many of the
many in the ARMM, evacuation has become an intermittent experience. Some of them
region’s residents.”
have become “permanently” displaced as they refuse to return home for fear that armed
conflict will recur and they will again be caught in a war not of their own making.

This briefing paper on governance and institution-building in the ARMM is basi-

cally a synthesis of the discussions in the 13-14 January meeting of the Mindanao
Study Group in Cotabato City. It is augmented by the writer’s notes and insights culled
from her experiences as a social development worker and professional researcher in the
region for the last two-and-a-half decades.



The ARMM is a creation of the Organic Act (Republic Act 6734 of 1987) that was
intended to address grievances of the Bangsamoro against the national government.
“Grievances had fueled an These grievances had fueled an armed revolutionary movement among young Moro
armed revolutionary intellectuals and professionals belonging mainly to three (Maranaw, Maguindanawon
movement among young and Tausug) of the 12 Moro ethno-linguistic groups. This was the Moro National Lib-
Moro intellectuals and eration Front (MNLF), a movement that became a popular rallying symbol of the Moro
professionals belonging struggle for self-determination by 1975. Two years earlier, in 1973, the Bangsa Moro
mainly to three (Maranaw, Army (BMA) was formally organized to lead the MNLF’s military engagements with
Maguindanawon and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Tausug) of the 12 Moro
ethno-linguistic groups.” Prior to the creation of the ARMM, the Philippine national government had already
started a process of laying the foundation of an autonomous government in the areas
identified by the MNLF as part of the Bangsamoro homeland. This process was the
result of a series of negotiations between the GRP and the MNLF that culminated in the
signing of the very first Peace Agreement – the Tripoli Agreement of 1976.

The Tripoli Agreement of 1976 provided for the establishment of autonomy in south-
ern Philippines “within the realm of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity of
the Republic of the Philippines…” Consequently, then president Ferdinand Marcos
signed Presidential Decree 1618 that formally created two autonomous regions in
Mindanao – Region IX, based in Zamboanga City, and Region XII, based in Cotabato
City. As provided for in the Tripoli Agreement, 13 provinces in southern Philippines
were identified as the areas of autonomy, namely:

• Basilan
• Sulu
• Tawi-tawi
• Zamboanga del Sur
• Zamboanga del Norte
• North Cotabato
• Maguindanao
• Sultan Kudarat
• Lanao del Norte
• Lanao del Sur
• Davao del Sur
• South Cotabato and
• Palawan

In these specified areas of autonomy, Muslims were to be given the right to set up
their own courts that will implement the Islamic Shari’ah laws. Muslims were to be “The Agreement provided
represented in all courts, including the Supreme Court. Moreover, authorities in the for an autonomous
areas of autonomy shall have the right to set up schools, colleges and universities as arrangement with its own
well as their own administrative system in compliance with the objectives of autonomy administrative, economic
and its institutions (Articles 4 and 5). In other words, the Agreement provided for an and financial systems.”
autonomous arrangement with its own administrative, economic and financial systems.

The Tripoli Agreement was quite significant in its provisions for a political settle-
ment between the Bangsamoro nation and the Philippine state. More importantly, it also
provided for the compensation to the widows and orphans of martyred mujahideen and
to communities which have been displaced and impoverished as a consequence of the “The Agreement also
armed struggle. provided for the
compensation to the
However, as it turned out, this provision along with others were not implemented widows and orphans of
by the national government. Presidential Decree 1618 fell short of MNLF expectations martyred mujahideen
of genuine autonomy. Instead, Regions IX and XII became mere additional bureau- and to communities
cratic layers in the administration of the 13 provinces, part of a strategy to window- which have been
dress Marcos’s repressive and dictatorial military rule. displaced and
impoverished as a
After President Marcos was ousted from office through a bloodless “People Power” consequence of the
coup in 1986, Cory Aquino, widow of the late Sen. Benigno Aquino, assumed the presi- armed struggle.
dency. Early in her term, Aquino immediately arranged for a meeting with MNLF
chairman Nur Misuari and the MNLF in Sulu. This meeting paved the way for a series
of negotiations with the MNLF during the Aquino administration. However, it took
another ten years to forge an agreement. On September 2, 1996, under the presidency
of Fidel V. Ramos, the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) was signed.

In 1987, a landmark change in Philippine governance took place with the signing of
a new Philippine Constitution. This major change in the national charter provided for
the creation of a Regional Commission that formulated the Organic Act for the Autono-
mous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). This is Republic Act 6734.

Voters in four of the 13 provinces covered by the two former autonomous regions
(IX and XII) chose to be included in the ARMM in a plebiscite held in 1989 to ratify RA
6734. These provinces were Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-tawi and Sulu. As
stipulated in RA 6734, the seat of government of the fledgling autonomous region was
Cotabato City. Ironically, the voters in this city did not vote for inclusion in the ARMM.

While the national government viewed RA 6734 as a blueprint for peace in Mindanao,
the MNLF rejected it. The MNLF leadership and members were totally excluded from
the process of formulating the autonomy law. To make matters worse, the ARMM had

negligible powers – there were far more restrictions rather than actual powers devolved
to it.

“Since the ARMM was The ARMM was also hostage to the power-brokers in Manila. Since it was created,
created, the ARMM the ARMM had been led by local politicians “anointed” by whoever sat in the presiden-
had been led by local tial palace. The first regional governor was the local stalwart of Pres. Aquino’s Laban ng
politicians “anointed” Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP). The second one was a Maranaw protégé of Pres. The
by whoever sat in the FPA with the MNLF had just been signed when the third ARMM elections were held.
presidential palace.” MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari was persuaded by Pres. Ramos to run for ARMM gover-
nor. Virtually unopposed, Misuari won the race in 1998.

By then Ramos’s term had ended and the country had a new president in Joseph
Estrada. But his term was cut short by another “People Power” mass action at EDSA in
2001 as a result of a popular perception that Estrada plundered and committed other
crimes against the Filipino nation. Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over
the reins.

Like her predecessors, Arroyo lost no time in directing who becomes the new ARMM
governor. Along with her power-brokers, she made possible the (in)famous break-up of
the MNLF Central Committee, easing out Misuari as its chairman. A so-called “Council
of 15” was organized, with Dr. Parouk Hussin as its leader. Eventually, the presidential
palace also anointed Hussin to be the new ARMM governor.

In elections last year, a new face in regional politics surfaced as the winner in the
contest for the ARMM governor’s post – Gov. Datu Rizaldy “Puti” Ampatuan. Despite
the declaration of the ARMM as a “free zone” in terms of the most likely to be elected
regional governor, the belief is that the new ARMM governor is also a presidential bet –
he is the son of Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, widely known as Pres. Arroyo’s
favorite local political ally.

“The Final Peace The Final Peace Agreement of 1996 was considered a breakthrough in the protracted
Agreement of 1996 peace process between the MNLF and the Philippine government. The FPA provided for
was considered a a transition phase (Phase I) and an expanded autonomous region (Phase II). In Phase I,
breakthrough in the the ARMM, together with 10 other provinces and nine cities were designated the Special
protracted peace Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD). A new structure, the Southern Philippines
process between the Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) was established to oversee peace and
MNLF and the development efforts within the SZOPAD. In addition to SPCPD, a Consultative Assem-
Philippine government.” bly of 81 members was mandated to be “a forum for consultation and ventilation of
issues and concerns.” (Muslim, 1999). It was tasked to conduct public hearings, recom-
mend policies to the President through the SPCPD chairman, and make rules and regula-
tions for the effective and efficient administration of the SZOPAD.

All the efforts of these newly created bodies and administrative structures were de-
signed to create some kind of an enabling environment for a New Regional Autonomous
Government (NRAG), envisioned to be an expanded ARMM that would cover clusters
of contiguous communities with predominantly Muslim populations. For this purpose,
the Philippine Congress was tasked to formulate a law to create the NRAG and amend
the Organic Act for the existing ARMM.

The enabling environment was not attained as envisioned. Even the time frame for
the formulation of the Expanded ARMM law did not take place as scheduled. The bill
creating an Expanded ARMM passed in Congress only in the latter part of 2001 and was
not signed into law by President Arroyo. It became a law after the period for the presi-
dential imprimatur lapsed after 30 days, thus becoming Republic Act 9054 or the Ex-
panded ARMM Law. A plebiscite was scheduled toward the end of 2002. Despite gov-
ernment campaigning for a yes vote in many provinces in the former SZOPAD, only one

more province (Basilan) and an additional city (Marawi) voted to be included in the
expanded ARMM.



In 2000, the five provinces and one city in the ARMM had a population of 2,876,077.
(Please refer to Table 1 for a breakdown of the total population by component province
and city). As the name of the region suggests, the ARMM population is predominantly
Muslim of various ethno-linguistic groups. There are 12 such groups. The most popu-
lous include the Maranaw (of the two Lanao provinces); the Maguindanawon from the
Cotabato provinces, including Maguindanao; and the Tausug of the Sulu archipelago.
The other
groups are the Table 1: ARMM population by component province and city,
f o l l o w i n g : NSO, 2000
Sama (Tawi-
tawi); Yakan Component Province Population as of May, 2000
“Since its creation in 1986,
(Basilan); Maguindanao 801,102
the ARMM has been beset
S a n g i l Lanao del Sur 669,072
with myriad problems,
(Sarangani); Sulu 619,668
many of which stem from
Iranun/Illanun Tawi-tawi 322,317
its being created allegedly
(between Basilan 332,828
to address long standing
Maguindanao Total 2,876,077
grievances among the
and Lanao del Total Philippine Population 76,498,735
minority Muslim
Sur); the population.”
(Palawan); Kalibugan (Zamboanga peninsula); Kalagan (Davao provinces); Jama Mapun
(Cagayan de Sulu island); and Badjaw of Sulu archipelago.

Since its creation in 1986, the ARMM has been beset with myriad problems as it
struggled to address long-standing grievances among the minority Muslim population.
Such grievances include the clamor of Muslims to be considered as a distinct “nation,”
and as such, entitled to the right to self-determination. According to MNLF and MILF
leaders, armed struggle has been waged to achieve this right, which has long been
denied by the central government.

Protracted armed conflict between Philippine government forces and those of the
MNLF (from 1970s to early 1990s) have compounded the already negative impact of Despite almost a decade of
long years of government neglect of and socially exclusive policies in the predomi- mainly externally-funded
nantly Muslim communities in the region. Many of these communities have known development assistance
nothing else but poverty, sporadic armed conflict and a life of misery in various evacu- regime, the ARMM still has
ation centers. to exhibit improvements in
over-all human develop-
A number of initiatives have been put in place in the ARMM to address the massive ment indices.
needs of its impoverished communities. The signing of the Final Peace Agreement on
September 2, 1996 ended more than two decades of armed conflict in various parts of
Central and Western Mindanao, including the Sulu archipelago. This landmark event
paved the way for various assistance programs to the region, especially from the inter-
national donor community.

Despite almost a decade of mainly externally-funded development assistance re-

gime, the ARMM still has to exhibit improvements in over-all human development
indices. A participant in Mindanao Study Group estimated that development funds
from the central government and external donors roughly total PhP 23 billion every
year. But the ARMM has not shown any improvement; instead, it has been pushed
further into dismal levels of poverty. It used to be the 4th poorest region in the country,

but now it holds the distinction of being no. 1 in terms of the poverty rate! From
1994 to 2000, the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 27%, but
poverty levels within that period also went up by 40%.

Table 2 show the levels of poverty in the ARMM compared with the averages in
the country. This is what Atty. Ambolodto refers to as the “unbroken thread of im-
poverishment” in the region. From 1997 to 2003, basic human development indica-
tors in the region, as shown in the performance of its component provinces, have
steadily deteriorated. Throughout a span of almost ten years, the ARMM’s poverty
levels have shown that the grant of “meaningful” autonomy, from the perception of
the Philippine national leadership, has not translated to higher per capita income
levels to the constituents of the region.
Table 2: Poverty incidence, HDI ranks, and other selected socio-economic indicators in ARMM
provinces (culled from Philippine Human Development Report, 2005)
Region/Province Poverty Incidence HDI Rank Per capita income Life Expectancy
1997 2000 2003 1997 2000 2003 1997 2000 2003 1997 2000 2003
Philippines 25.1 27.5 25.7 26,881 27,442 68 69.3 67/72
Basilan 30.2 63.0 65.6 69 74 74 13,026 13,265 59.8 60.2 60.6
Lanao del Sur 40.8 48.1 38.8 73 72 68 15,211 20,016 56 56.9 57.9
Maguindanao 24 36.2 55.8 72 75 76 15,508 14,198 53.2 52.6 52
“The ARMM has the worst Sulu 87.5 92.0 88.8 77 77 77 7,675 8,430 51.9 52.3 52.8
human development Tawi-tawi 52.1 75.3 69.9 75 76 75 11,121 10,780 50.4 50.8 51.2
indicators among the 16
regions in the country.” The ARMM has the worst human development indicators among the 16 regions
in the country. In a 2003 World Bank report, the ARMM falls behind the rest of the
country in terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) introduced by the
United Nations in 2000. These goals relate to addressing challenges of poverty, low
literacy levels, poor maternal health, gender inequality, and so on. Table 3 shows
how the ARMM measures up.
Table 3. MDG and other indicators of human development in the ARMM (from Human Develop-
ment for Peace and Prosperity in the ARMM, World Bank, 2003.)
MDG or other indicator ARMM Whole country Rank among
16 regions
Poverty incidence, 2000 62.9 34.0 16
Average household income, 2000 81,519 144,039 15
Life expectancy among women (years) 59.3 71.6 15
Life expectancy among men (years) 55.5 66.3 15
Infant mortality, 1995 (per 1000 live 63 49 14
Maternal mortality, 1995 (per 100,000 320 180 15
live births)
Net enrolment rate in primary 82.0 96.4 15
education, 2001 (%)
Net enrolment rate in secondary 39.2 72.2 15
education, 2001 (%)
Note: A rank of 1 is the most desirable outcome. Data come from 16 regions; there is no data yet
for Region XIII (Caraga).
“It seems that every time there
is a peace accord, it leads to Issues related to land continue to haunt the ARMM. Land is a substantive item
the loss of Moro lands or on the agenda of the current peace talks since the 1996 Final Peace Agreement did
lands the Moro peoples have not address this issue. For example, how do we deal with military settlements like
traditionally occupied or Awang and Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao? As one participant opined, it seems
settled.” that every time there is a peace accord, it leads to the loss of Moro lands or lands the
Moro peoples have traditionally occupied or settled.

Another issue has to deal with the perception widely held by Bangsamoro intel-
lectuals on whether the creation of the ARMM is “legitimate.” Since the creation of
the ARMM is attributed largely to the national government, many Bangsamoro think of “Since the creation
it as an “imposition” by an “alien” government, or what is being referred to in the of the ARMM is
Maguindanawon vernacular as “gubilnu a sarewang a tau,” (a government of strange attributed largely to the
people). Corollary to this is another perception that the Bangsamoro will not work in national government,
such a way to make the ARMM fully functional, even for their own ends. After all, the many Bangsamoro
creation of the region is not the handiwork of the Bangsamoro, but of the national gov- think of it as an
ernment. Let the national government make it work then. “imposition” by an
“alien” government,
The Organic Act that created the ARMM in 1987 (RA 6734) listed or enumerated or what is being
the region’s powers. In the latter RA 9054 that expanded the areas covered by the referred to
ARMM, the powers not entitled to the autonomous region are specified. This implies in the Maguindanawn
that residual powers are with the region and NOT with the national government in Ma- vernacular as “gubilnu a
nila. sarewang a tau,” (a
government of strange
Moreover, there is a question about the proper interpretation of RA 9054. Does the people).”
Act provide for a mere decentralization or is it devolution? RA 9054 also clearly stipu-
lates renunciation of armed struggle as a political option.

Despite its shortcomings, RA 9054 deserves to be given more careful study since it
seems that both Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) members and other key ARMM “Despite its shortcomings,
officials have failed to maximize whatever benefits or opportunities were made avail- RA 9054 deserves to be
able by this law. given more careful study
since it seems that both
Assembly (RLA) members
It is widely recognized that the ARMM needs all the help it can get to put its act and other key ARMM
together and showcase the benefits of decentralization and strengthening of local gov- officials have failed in
ernment institutions toward sustainable development. There is an urgent need to forge maximizing whatever
a better system of governance for the Bangsamoro. As one participant stressed, there is benefits or opportunities
not much room for repeating the mistakes of the past. are in RA 9054.”

What forms of outside pressure could be used to improve governance in the ARMM?
One participant answered with another question: Should national government and aid
agencies threaten to turn off the spigot of assistance? This is because the control of
funds is critical in making sure the funds are used for genuine value-added projects and
other concerns that redound to the welfare of the region’s impoverished constituents.

For the Mindanao Studies Group, there is a need to synthesize ideas and previous
studies on the ARMM, especially those that look at the experience of autonomy over the
years. This project could look at what has worked and not worked, lessons learned and
best practices, if ever there are, in running an autonomous region.
“Datu Puti is said to be
Despite the dark clouds, so to speak, there is still a lot of silver lining for the ARMM. the only regional
Basically, we can look at two “windows of opportunities” in improving governance in governor so far to have
the region. First is the overwhelming victory of Datu Zaldy “Puti” Ampatuan as the required the Regional
new regional governor. Atty. Ambolodto argues that Datu Puti’s victory was a manifes- Legislative Assembly
tation of consensus among the highest echelon of local government units, i.e. the pro- members a specific
vincial levels. and “responsive”
legislative agenda.”
Whatever the means by which this consensus was forged, either by “preponder-
ance” of the forces of Datu Puti’s powerful political family or by gentle persuasion from
the presidential palace, is no longer an issue. What is important is that this consensus
can be a building block for some positive developments in the beleaguered region. For
instance, Datu Puti is said to be the only regional governor to have required that the
Regional Legislative Assembly members draft a specific and “responsive” legislative
agenda. Because of the enormous support given to him by the RLA it is most likely he

will get the RLA members moving quickly to accede to his “request.”

Still, there are some misgivings. Some observers question whether Datu Puti’s
election as governor is a real opportunity for reforms. One participant argued that it
might be that everyone is afraid of Datu Puti or the political clan he represents.
There is a need to know what his real intentions are, what skills and abilities he has
and whether on the whole, he will deliver the “goods” for ARMM’s improvement.

The current peace process between the MILF and the GRP is the second window
of opportunity for ARMM’s “deliverance.” Such a process, which is touted to be a
much improved version of the first one with the MNLF, could create a stronger
structure of autonomy and could possibly bring greater honesty and competence.
However, we need to look at the track record of MILF in governance.

Dr. Jose Abueva has defined good governance as “the sustained capacity of the
government and related political institutions to make and carry out timely policies
and decisions that effectively respond to our problems, challenges and goals as a
nation.” In this context, can we apply the concept of good governance to the MILF?
What has been its track record at Camp Abubakar and other areas under its influ-
ence? How does it govern the territories under its control? Will it govern differently
than the previous leadership in the ARMM? If the MILF fails, will the discontent-
ment created by failure in governance find new channels among lawless elements
like the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)?

The MILF does have a governance structure and even a system of justice. Still,
“Political Islam is not a when the group talks about the corruption of the “moral fiber” as one of the serious
problem in southern problems besetting the Bangsamoro people, its meaning is not quite clear.
Philippines. The great scholar
Cesar Adib Majul has once In taking a deeper look at governance, we need to examine other factors or indi-
remarked that “Islam is cators. What has been the role, for example, of religion in promoting good gover-
primitive in the Philippines.” nance? Among the Ulama (Council of Learned Men in Islam), secular issues like
Islamic governance is a notion politics and governance are not given emphasis in the khutbah (sermons during Fri-
that is not quite clear to many day congregational prayers). The Ulama in general are not politicized. Political
Muslims.” Islam is not a problem in southern Philippines. The great scholar Cesar Adib Majul
once remarked that “Islam is primitive in the Philippines.” Islamic governance is a
notion that is not quite clear to many Muslims.

Moreover, there are existing clan-related issues like rido that the Ulama have to
take into consideration; they tend to shun criticism of clan members who are known
to be “stealing” government funds. In many cases, they might even justify stealing
government funds because it is money from an “alien government.” However, some
Ulama members did play a big role during the last elections. They reminded people
about honesty and integrity of their votes in their khutbah before the elections. They
exhorted the faithful to vote and guard their votes for any possibility of cheating.

This point led the discussion to a point raised about the possibility of engaging
the religious sector among the Bangsamoro to get involved and advocate for tempo-
ral issues like good governance and political reforms. One experience that can be
“We must consider the used as a point of reference is the fatwa (decree) issued by some members of the
hierarchy of the Ulama (from Ulama on the advocacy for reproductive health. It was packaged not so much as a
the Grand Mufti down) and reproductive health advocacy but as promoting “maternal health” to be more accept-
the messages for the able. In Islam, mothers are given a very prominent position in terms of respect and
advocacies must be packaged honor from family members. As expected, some ulama were not quite happy about
appropriately considering the fatwa. However, this experience showed it is possible to engage the Ulama with
cultural and religious advocacies of highly temporal or secular issues. But a caveat must be observed in
sensitivities.” engaging them. We must consider the hierarchy of the Ulama (from the Grand Mufti

down) and the messages for the advocacies must be packaged appropriately, taking into
account cultural and religious sensitivities.

There is also a need to look at all these issues in relation to the proposed Charter
Change. For example, the 1987 Philippine Constitution stipulates the separation of
Church and State. In Islam, there is no such separation. Moreover, tensions that have
arisen from the provisions included in the proposed Charter Change – especially those
that create friction among Muslims – must be addressed.
“If and when the MILF is
If and when the MILF is given the chance to govern the autonomous region under a given the chance to
new set-up, there is a need for its members to guard against a “club mentality” and to be govern the autonomous
conscious of the principles of inclusion, i.e. the inclusion of other groups in the new region under a new set-up,
governance structure. Such a structure could be a possible Bangsamoro Juridical there is a need for its
Entity – but as of now, this is still a concept that needs to have a form and essence. But members to guard
this concept is worth considering in the light of a possible final peace agreement to be against a “club mentality”
signed between the MILF and the GRP. Increasing the levels of public discourse on this and to be conscious
concept can lead to a possible fleshing out of the basic elements of this proposed gover- of the principles of
nance modality. inclusion, i.e. the
inclusion of other
The participants in the MSG discussion arrived at the following consensus points to groups in the new
make the ARMM move forward to improve governance and achieve a more politically governance structure.
and economically stable region: “As it is now, the region
has a good mid-level
• Maximize the opportunities provided by RA 9054. Assert all rights of the bureaucrat profile, whose
Bangsamoro under this organic law. The powers granted to ARMM in RA talents and energies need to
9054 are so much better than those proposed under a future federal law. be fully tapped.”
• There is a serious need to consider generating more revenue for the region.
Regional officials cannot talk about reforms if they are not assured they
have enough money of their own. They cannot be begging for development
funds all the time. They should come up with mechanisms for economic
self-reliance. To start with, the ARMM has resource-rich land and water,
and has enormous human resources, but these have not been tapped to their
full potential. Agriculture and fisheries should be among the priority areas
for development.
• There is also a need for all the external support in terms of development aid
to succeed. Along this line, a study could be made on the best practices and “The region has a good
lessons learned in development assistance. mid-level bureaucrat
• The region has a good mid-level bureaucrat profile, whose talents and ener- profile, whose talents and
gies need to be fully tapped. These mid-level bureaucrats are quite idealis- energies need to be
tic, have deep commitment and eager for real work. Some of them have fully tapped. “
undergone all sorts of training, even with elite institutions like the Asian
Institute of Management in Makati. Thus there is a need to maximize the
full potentials of these middle level managers to push the region to attain
sustainable peace and development. One problem: their bosses tend to spend
most of their time doing a lot of “politicking” in the corridors of power in
Metro Manila, instead of development work at home.


The ARMM, both in its original and expanded forms, manifests the envisioned
decentralization of local or regional units of the Philippine national bureaucracy. As
such, it holds much promise for improving regional governance as well as developing
the only autonomous regional government structure in the country. However, such a
special position is also fraught with myriad problems.

Many bureaucracies in newly democratizing Third World countries are currently

experiencing crisis after crisis attributable mainly to weak governance and the lack
of political will as well as massive allegations of graft and corruption among leaders
of these countries. In a paper on the role of civil society in democratic countries,
John Clark (2003) refers to these negative phenomena as “democracy deficits.” Clark
argues that it is these so-called democracy deficits that have made civil society orga-
“The four pillars of good nizations popular – these organizations are the ones performing functions that are
governance in any otherwise the mandate of line agencies within the government bureaucracy.
bureaucracy are
transparency, accountability, To address such deficits, Clark posits the “four pillars” of good governance in
a sound judicial system, and any bureaucracy. These are: transparency, accountability; a sound judicial system,
people participation.” and people participation. The first two pillars relate to the extent to which those in
power must justify, substantiate and make known their actions and decisions. It also
includes government mechanisms that promote devolution, following the principle
of subsidiarity and the responsiveness of socio-political structures that elicit and pro-
mote community involvement in the affairs of the local government structure – whether
it is a barangay, municipality, province or a regional government, as in the case of the

The third pillar relates to the creation of structures that promote social justice and
equity, and provision of sanctions for both government functionaries and constitu-
ents alike who violate the rules and regulations of these structures.

People participation in governance is both a means and an end in creating a sense

of ownership among constituents, thereby leading to a healthy relationship between
the governed and those who govern. It redounds to improved governance since maxi-
mum participation of the governed means that they are willing to commit to make
government work efficiently and effectively. It is also a fulfillment of the rights of
the people to participate in political processes that will contribute to their own wel-

Participation supports the criteria of transparency and accountability since it al-

lows citizens to make their own decisions at the village, municipality, province or
regional levels. In this sense, making people participate in the processes of gover-
nance will lead to their empowerment. According to Friedman (in Gardner and
Lewis, 1996: 117-118) “empowerment is fundamental to an alternative development
“The ARMM was created not that places…emphasis on autonomy in the decision-making of territorially organized
only to distribute power from communities, local self-reliance (but not autarky), direct (participatory) democracy,
a highly centralized national and experiential social learning. Its starting point is the locality, because civil society
government but more is most readily mobilized around local issues.”
importantly to address
centuries-old grievances For the ARMM, there is a need to use a framework that captures the unique
among the marginalized situation of the region vis-à-vis the Philippine national government. The ARMM
Muslims and other was created not only to distribute power from a highly centralized national govern-
indigenous groups in the ment but more importantly to address centuries-old grievances among the marginalized
region.” Muslims and other indigenous groups in the region. These populations have long
been excluded from the mainstream through various policies of exclusion and dis-
criminatory legislations that go way back to the two colonial administrations of Spain
and the US. There is a need to recognize these realities in framing good governance
for the ARMM.

A more appropriate framework for good governance in the ARMM needs to con-
sider two important additional points – first, the region’s rich cultural diversity and
second, gender issues and concerns. The former is an imperative in a region that has
seen so much conflict and divisiveness. Armed non-state actors among the Bangsamoro
have challenged the highly centralized Philippine nation-state since the unilateral
inclusion of the Bangsamoro homeland by the colonial masters. Failure to under-

stand the root causes of the Bangsamoro resistance that continues to the present will
lead to unresponsive regional governance.

The issues associated with gender in the bureaucracy are quite controversial, as far
as the predominantly male bureaucrats in the region are concerned. This, however, is
not unique to the ARMM; the Philippines as a country has not been known to give
prominence to women’s issues and concerns despite the fact that a special body has
been organized at the national level to look into these concerns – the National Commis-
sion on the Role of Filipino Women. The country has produced a good number of
female bureaucrats. And it is one of only two countries in Southeast Asia that have had
a woman leader, two of them, in fact. Interestingly, both women assumed the presiden-
tial post after the ouster of their discredited male predecessors.

Despite this rather impressive record, the Philippines’ gender empowerment indi-
cators still tip the balance in favor of the males of its population. It was only in 1937 that
Filipino women were granted the right to vote (Pongsapich, 2005). The present Philip-
pine House of Representatives (Lower House) is predominantly male – only 12.5% are
women, out of more than 200 members. The 23-member Senate (Upper House) has
only four women senators.

In the ARMM, a regional counterpart of NCRFW has been established – the Re-
gional Commission on Bangsamoro Women (RCBW). Both bodies aim to increase
women’s participation in governance and to mainstream gender concerns in the bureau-
cracy. Sadly, up to this writing, such aims still remain elusive dreams for half of the
population of the region. The regional public administration, like that of the national
government, is still pervaded by a culture that reflects and promotes the interests of men
The ARMM, both in its
rather than women.
original and expanded
forms, is replete with the
Structurally and ideally, the ARMM is a good example of a decentralized mecha-
so-called democracy
nism toward the broad distribution of political power, enabling the regional govern-
deficits – weak
ment to be more responsive to the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged in the region.
governance has led to
Local representatives and administrators are in the best position to know the exact na-
abject poverty of its
ture of the needs of local people, including most especially the needs of marginalized
peoples and very low
and impoverished indigenous cultural communities and how these needs can be met in
levels of human
the most cost-effective way (see Turner and Hulme, 1997). These attributes could have
development indicators like
paved the way for ARMM to develop more rapidly and thus become politically stable.
literacy, access to
basic social and health
As it turned out, past ARMM administrations fell short of the goals of democratic
services, and opportunities
decentralization. Using Clark’s framework for good governance, the ARMM, both in
to catch up with the
its original and expanded forms, is replete with the so-called democracy deficits – weak
majority Filipino
governance has led to abject poverty of its peoples and very low levels of human devel-
opment indicators like literacy, access to basic social and health services, and opportu-
nities to catch up with the majority Filipino population (see World Bank report, 2003).
Its lack of political will has paved the way for a “mendicancy mode” prevailing among
regional bureaucrats, whose behavior appears to be aimed more at pleasing the powers-
that-be in Manila rather than their constituencies at home. To top it all, allegations of “In terms of practicing
widespread graft and corruptin among regional officials have led to “massive cyni- cultural diversity, the
cism” (Ambolodto, 2006), both among local and national opinion makers. ARMM has made strides in
recognizing the important
In terms of practicing cultural diversity, the ARMM has made strides in recognizing role of indigenous peoples
the important role of indigenous peoples and the lowland Christians of different ethnicities and the lowland Christians
who have made the region their homeland too. Thus the ARMM has offices for the of different ethnicities who
deputy governor for indigenous peoples (IPs) and another deputy governor for the Chris- have made the region their
tians. However, appointing persons to these positions is not enough. There is a need to homeland too.”
provide financial, administrative and over-all logistical and technical support to the
offices of these deputy governors if they are to carry out programs to improve gover-

nance among their respective sectors.

It can be argued that as a decentralized structure, the ARMM is only as good as the
“As a decentralized national government bureaucracy that engendered it. When assessed using Clarke’s
structure, the ARMM is criteria and using the additional requirements of cultural diversity and gender, the na-
only as good as the tional government clearly falls short of all these. Transparency, accountability, stringent
national government and sound judicial systems and procedures and people participation in governance are
bureaucracy that practiced more in the breach than in performance. There is wide public outcry on the
engendered it.” lack of all these things in the national government and a massive pessimism pervades
among the majority and minority populations.

The MILF-GRP Peace process is proceeding in earnest, despite some setbacks and
allegations of ceasefire violations on both sides. Just recently, some armed encounters
took place in at least four municipalities in Maguindanao, and the MILF had been singled
out to be one of the protagonists in this new round of hostilities. Even so, the signing of
a Peace Agreement between the two parties is now considered highly imminent.

Prof. Aboud Syed Lingga has noted that the peace process is an opportunity to nego-
“Peace process is an tiate with the national government for things that the ARMM can do, rather than being
opportunity to negotiate given a listing of restrictions. In this way, the ARMM can negotiate for other possible
with the national areas of practicing genuine autonomy.
government for things that
the ARMM can do, rather This optimism is quite laudable – still, it remains to be seen whether the things
than being given a listing touted to be quite innovative in the administration of Datu Puti will translate into over-
of restrictions.” all good governance in the region. There are too many “intervening variables” that
might scuttle these two windows of opportunities for better governance in the ARMM.
At this stage, it is still too early to tell.

In addition, there is a bright prospect for a more rationalized governance structure

that can be forged out of the floated concept of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. However,
this is contingent on the signing of an MILF-GRP Final Peace Agreement.


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tion at the January 13 meeting of the Mindanao Studies Group, Estosan Hotel, Cotabato City.

Clark, John (2003). “Governance and Civil Society in a Globalized World.” Paper delivered at the
International Conference on Public Administration Plus Governance. 21-23 October, Manila Hotel,

Gardner, Katy and David Lewis. Anthropology, Development and the Post-Modern Challenge. Lon-
don: Pluto Press, 1996.

Muslim, Macapado and Rufa Cagoco-Guiam (1999). “Mindanao Land of Promise” in

Compromising on Autonomy – Mindanao in Transition in Accord – An International Review of Peace
Initiatives. London: Conciliation Resources.

Pongsapich, Amara (2005). “Gender Scorecard and Human Development in Southeast Asia,” a paper
presented at the Fourth ASEAN People’s Assembly. 11-13 May, EDSA Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong
City, Philippines. .

The World Bank Human Development Sector Unit. East Asia and Pacific Region (2003). Human
Development for Peace and Prosperity in the ARMM.

Turner, Mark and David Hulme (1997). Governance, Administration and Development.
Making the State Work. Connecticut, USA: The Kumarian Press.

United Nations Development Programme (2005). The Philippine Human Development Report. Ma-
nila, Philippines: UNDP.