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With or without the extension of the transition period for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) Executive Director Benedicto Bacani urged partners of IAG’s political dialogue program not to waver in the advocacy for democratic, accountable and inclusive political institutions, rule of law and human rights. These core values at the heart of the Australian Government-supported ENPOLD 2 Bangsamoro project are a way to sustainable peace and good governance in the autonomous region, he said.


Bacani spoke last week before the gathering of ENPOLD partners in Zamboanga City aimed to sharpen key messages to better engage with target stakeholders, increase project impact and achieve long-term sustainability. ENPOLD stands for Enhancing Political Dialogue for Inclusive Transition and Institutions in the Bangsamoro, which IAG implements under a consortium of institutional partners that includes Ateneo de Manila University School of Government (ASOG), Ateneo de Zamboanga University Center for Leadership and Governance (ACLG), Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA) and Organization of Teduray Lambangian Conference (OTLAC).


ENPOLD 2  is an expansion of the Pro-Politics Project (Promoting Political Climate and Stability for Peace in the Bangsamoro) and the ENPOLD 1 project (Enhancing Political Dialogue for Inclusive Peace in the Bangsamoro) implemented under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Australian Government. The approach and design of ENPOLD 2 are built from the learnings of these two programs already implemented. IAG through the ENPOLD project hopes to provide a credible arena for political dialogue involving key stakeholders, particularly regional and local political leaders, women, indigenous peoples and youth leaders, to build consensus and ownership of the Bangsamoro institutions as key to sustainable and inclusive peace and translate political dialogues to actionable plans for stakeholders’ advocacy campaigns, resolutions and coalitions towards convergence and inclusivity in the peace process. 


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“ENPOLD’s core values have been consistently advocated and will remain unchanged. These are not subject to compromise. But the manner by which we convey these core messages would depend on the challenges and opportunities before us,” Bacani said.


The project goes full swing amidst the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic and against the backdrop of the issue of moving the first regular elections in BARMM from 2022 to 2025, thereby adding three more years to the transition period.


Several bills calling for the extension have been filed at the Senate and House of Representatives.


Bacani said there are two challenges that can be gleaned in the current discourse on the extension of the transition. First is the lack of clarity, understanding, consensus and ownership of the nature, goals, and strategic direction of political transition. Second is lumping political transition with normalization, decommissioning and peace process. Unpacking the critical issues around these challenges to allow for a more robust appreciation of the need for inclusive, democratic and accountable processes and institutions is a must, he added.