HIGHLIGHTS: IAG IN 2016
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2016 was a busy year for IAG as we took another huge opportunity to advance autonomy in southern Philippines.
The year saw a critical transition with the Aquino administration wrapping up and the prospects under a new one trickling in. This is the backdrop that defined most of IAG’s policy work especially in the first six months of the year – the transition to the new administration – as the Institute continued to uphold its role as an independent think tank to provide the forum for raising the discourse on the peace process to a level that will meaningfully translate autonomy agreements to meaningful structures, processes and practices.
IAG provided the vehicle for discussions on hard issues made even more so with Congress’ failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
IAG stayed true to its tradition of independence, scholarship and inclusiveness while navigating the uncertainties of the times, generating, refining, and building consensus on policy prescriptions to move forward the discourse on autonomy and governance in the Muslim south in the new administration and the new political environment that comes with it. This as it committed support to developing policies that promote social cohesion, good governance and effective intergovernmental relations.
10 years of shaping public policy with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
A fitting opener for IAG in 2016 was a tribute to an institutional partnership that has largely shaped the Institute to what it is now today.
IAG gathered friends and partners in Cotabato City to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its partnership with German foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. It was a chance to showcase IAG’s roots, its simple beginnings and colorful journey that is intrinsically tied to the aspiration for genuine autonomy, good governance and lasting peace.
Local candidates’ forum
In the run-up to the May 2016 elections, IAG tapped into issues and concerns of its immediate environs and stakeholders by holding a local forum wherein voters were given a chance to field their questions to candidates vying for various elective positions in Cotabato City. Each candidate was given fair opportunity to articulate their governance platform. The forum was an opportunity to help voters make an informed choice on election day.
Continuing the advocacy for full recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in the ARMM
In June, IAG supported the call to review the Teduray and Lambangian Local Guidelines on the installation of IPMR (mandatory IP representation) in Maguindanao. The objective was for the IPMR to be used as mechanism by legitimate IP leaders in processing the installation of their representatives in the administration of the newly elected officials from the municipal to the provincial level.
IAG continuously advocates mainstreaming of IP issues and concerns in the policymaking agenda of government to ensure protection of rights and welfare even of the non-Islamized minority groups in the region in whatever form of autonomy the current dispensation based on the peace agreements may devise to effect good governance, development and lasting peace.
Bridging the peace process of the outgoing administration to the next
High in the IAG agenda in 2016 is continuing its work turning the peace agreements into workable principles and mechanisms of good governance despite the suspended fate of the enabling law of the CAB in Congress and the prospects of autonomy yet to be articulated by the new president.
Prior to the elections in May, IAG has lined up a series of activities to bridge the peace process by providing the next administration a wide range of policy choices to better autonomy and governance in the autonomous region:
■A local forum to update on the Mindanao peace process in February;
■An RTD on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and its prospects in the new administration in May; and
■A back-to-back roundtable series in Cotabato City and Manila to generate policy recommendations based on the experience of the past six years of the Aquino administration in May and June
The recommendations gathered from these activities where further refined post-election. IAG wasted no time in positioning the Mindanao peace process in the agenda of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte. This also meant officially adding to the menu federalism, the president’s preferred means sans details to address the lack of peace in the autonomous region and the underdevelopment in the countryside.
IAG elevated the discussion by conducting a series of experts workshops – two in June and one in August – on policy recommendations on the Mindanao peace process. These workshops were designed to situate the peace roadmap in the federalism agenda.
The back-to-back experts workshops in June helped influence the emerging peace agenda of the administration. President Duterte adopted in his speech two critical policies that were articulated in these workshops:
■The implementation of all signed peace agreements in step with constitutional and legal reforms, and the
■Participation of all other stakeholders, particularly the indigenous peoples, to ensure inclusivity in the peace process.
The succeeding experts workshop in August went into finer details of the emerging peace roadmap by subjecting it to different scenarios to identify perils and opportunities. The takeaways from these workshops have since advised the peace efforts of government.
With KAS, IAG conducted two forums on federalism – at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City in September and in Iloilo City in December.
The UP forum aimed to promote meaningful conversations about the Duterte administration’s thrust to change the form of government from a unitary to a federal system. Participants, mostly students and law practitioners, listened to various perspectives, prospects and fundamentals of federalism, especially those that are feasible in the Philippine context; the accompanying risks and opportunities of the shift to federalism; fiscal federalism; rule of law and policing in federal systems; the peace process and federalism; and the policy and practice of autonomy in the ARMM and the prospects moving toward the shift to federalism.
In Iloilo, some 300 members of the Philippines Councilors League (PCL) Iloilo Chapter underwent a seminar on federalism as part of their yearend assembly. They were oriented on the basic concepts of federalism, the repercussions on fiscal and intergovernmental relations, and how this impacts on the politics of reforms and the decentralization drive.
Lecture series on federalism in Congress
From last year’s highly successful “Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Roundtable Series” at the Senate of the Philippines, IAG partnered once more with UNDP, this time to expand the discourse on federalism in both houses of Congress. A lecture series – four-part in the House of Representatives and three-part in the Senate – made a robust contribution to the ongoing discussion by broadening the lens for viewing the subject of autonomy, governance and federalism.
In partnership with the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the House of Representatives and the Senate Economic Planning Office, IAG invited a number of experts to provide their insights on the different issues and concerns relating to federalism. The lecture series aimed at facilitating an enhanced understanding of the idea of federalism and how it connects with various governance and development issues with the hope of not only informing policymakers, but inspiring as well as lively, meaningful and healthy discussion on the subject.
The Institute for Autonomy and Governance is committed to promote autonomy and good governance as a key to sustainable peace and development in southern Philippines. Autonomy in peace agreements between the Philippine government and the Moro revolutionary groups (MNLF and MILF) dates back to as early as 1970’s and making it work for Mindanao peace continues to be an uphill challenge for all stakeholders. IAG’s mission is to ensure that autonomy does not remain as an ideology or aspiration in peace agreements and laws but must be translated to better security, good governance and development in communities. IAG is for a working, not paper autonomy, be it in the form of federalism or other autonomy arrangements.
Kusog Mindanaw conference on federalism
To identify, understand and evaluate federalism and its impact on the different facets of Mindanao’s life, culture, politics and economic development, IAG convened in November in Davao City representatives from various sectors in Mindanao on the theme of “federalism and all-inclusive political platforms for Southern Philippines.” The conference looked into the dynamics and relations of federalism and peace, the consensus on which to converge or diverge and the constructive steps moving forward. Whatever this may be, IAG maintains, it is important to always uphold inclusivity in the process in attaining it.
Forum on the state of autonomy and decentralization
The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Rule of Law Programme Asia and the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) assembled in Manila in April local autonomy advocates and policy experts in the fields of local governance and public administration to look into the state of autonomy and decentralization in the Philippines and whether the laws that govern these are ripe for charter change. Of particular interest are the possible reforms the next administration may consider to enhance local governance and address the continuing assertion for autonomy in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
Dubbed as "State of Autonomy and Decentralization in the Philippines: Ripe for Charter Change?", the two-day forum came at a critical juncture of political development – two weeks before the Philippines national election, at a period when presidential contender Rodrigo Duterte has consistently figured on top of opinion polls and voting-preference surveys. That the Davao City mayor was likely to emerge as the victor in the presidential race provided a major backdrop for the KAS-IAG forum putting forward the issues of decentralization and charter change.
Elevating the discourse on autonomy and governance
As early as August 2015, IAG has pondered bringing into the mainstream consciousness of national leaders and policymakers the concept of autonomy as a device to solve long-standing ethnic and minority conflicts. An agreement with KAS and a few other partners, including the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the British Embassy Manila, was eventually reached to stage the first ever global conference on the themes mentioned in Manila. A preliminary meeting in May looked into ways how to produce maximum impact counting on the attendance of world-renowned experts on the subject presenting to a target audience of 400 from different fields in government, private sector and civil society.
The holding of the first Global Autonomy, Governance and Federalism (GAGF) Forum in December was a testament to IAG’s growing capability of convening diverse groups of different persuasions, this time in one global stage, to share experiences and good practices on the subject themes.
IAG and KAS meticulously planned GAGF 2016 to become a venue to broaden, refine and sharpen frame of analysis on decentralization in the Philippines, local autonomy for local governments, special autonomy for Mindanao, and federalism.
The widely hailed two-day GAGF presented a venue for exploring how different jurisdictions practice autonomy and federalism; looking at the processes by which autonomy and federalism are negotiated, and then entrenched as public policy, and implemented.
Building a coalition for reforms towards inclusive development of Mindanao agriculture
With World Bank, IAG continued its project aimed at building a coalition in order to demand for good governance and inclusive institutions for sustained inclusive growth in Mindanao.
We closed the year with a coalition of over 300 public and private leaders and institutions in Mindanao formed under the platform of Kusog Mindanaw, a forum for Mindanao peace and development. The coalition is committed to advocate:
■Equitable share of Mindanao to the national wealth and strong voice in policy-making especially on matters affecting Mindanao;
■Inclusive economic growth and infrastructure development to address poverty and marginalization;
■Accountability, transparency and good governance in public service;
■Sustainable peace and security in Mindanao communities.