The nagging question asked by many is, who will run the Autonomous Region?
Can the MILF, the principal sponsor of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, and its Malaysian ally suddenly metamorphose from a band of former guerrilla fighters into a development entity that can prepare a comprehensive development plan and implement the same? If they cannot, the development of the region now supervised by the central government, however flawed it is because it has not provided the accelerated development of the area, could even decelerate if not deteriorate. This would be disastrous since it would sow the seeds of graver political, economic and social instability.
Most successful autonomous regions in the world broke away from its parent government when they were strong enough to fend for themselves. Before they could run they had to learn how to walk. This is not the case of the Bangsamoro region which is considered among the poorest regions in the country. For this government to allow the region to fly away from the coop it better be sure that it has wings. If not it would just fall into the ground like the ill-fated Malaysian Airline System passenger jet. This is too much of a risk to take.
The solution would be the sequential and gradual emancipation under the tutelage of the national or even a supra-national entity like the Asean which has already designed a seeming viable economic community called the BIMP-EAGA which consolidates the East-Asean countries; Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
This is the answer to the economic viability of Muslim economies and at the same time help to solve the nagging political issue—the Sabah claim of this country. Indeed if Malaysia were to cooperate in an inclusive settlement of the Moro issue by uplifting the quality of life of the subjects of the Sultanate and the Tausugs in general who occupy Sabah and Western Mindanao, through solidarity economic cooperation and complementation, everyone would benefit. This form of sub-regional arrangement can generate income from which entitlements can be derived in the form of compensation to the Sulu Sultanate, the principal claimant to Sabah. This is the only way we believe that lasting peace in Mindanao can be achieved. We sincerely believe peace cannot be achieved by the present exclusive framework agreement brokered by Malaysia in pursuit of her self-interest for the benefit mostly of its ally the MILF.
Successful parliamentary governance requires mature and competitive political parties, otherwise power will easily be hijacked by a small group. In the case of the Bangsamoro, in the absence of massive political participation, it is to be expected then that the chief proponents of the Bangsamoro—namely the MILF supported by its Malaysian benefactor—could conceivably delay the democratization of the autonomous region rather than accelerate it. We would then see a repeat of the Marcos KBL party that ruled this nation for over a dozen years under the strong hands of a dictator. Given the traditional tribal or clannish culture of the region, a parliamentary government would lead to instability as periodic loss of confidence in the administration would produce frequent changes. This is seen even in developed countries in the West. This is the last thing that the autonomous region, which will require a stable political climate to pursue its development goals, needs.
On the economic side, can we entrust the new Bangsamoro with no track record in economic planning to optimize the development of its human and natural resources and effect the fairest distribution of its income to its citizenry? With all the gatekeepers in this Matuwid government it seems that even this administration cannot ward off nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance leading to massive graft and corruption as in the PDAF.
In the past even more advanced economies which have embarked on overly ambitious goals have missed planned targets due to poor implementation by incompetent corrupt and inefficient civil servants. For our newly-minted autonomous region to be able to field the best and find the economists, engineers and technicians to launch the complex management of its economy fast enough to satisfy the revolution of rising expectations of its people is at the moment a pipe dream. But of course they can get the best talent from abroad—if money is no object.
Fielding untried and untested leadership to supervise, coordinate and control plan implementation, determine development goals and strategies, determine the size and composition of investment programs, formulate economic policies, build development institutions, mobilize resources and enlist the national energies, is indeed a herculean task which even the central government after more than decades have failed to achieve adequately.
In sum what is required of a successful Bangsamoro Agreement that will ensure lasting peace in the region are the following:
The adoption by this nation of a Federal form of government which can grant full autonomy to Bangsamoro, the Cordilleras and the 18 Regions of the archipelago. This will avoid the charge that the CAB smacks of class legislation favoring only one region in the country.
The grant of full autonomy to Bangsamoro premised on its adoption of the Sulu Sultanate’s claim over Sabah. This means the Philippine government should be willing to lose that part of Mindanao that will be the Bagsamoro, including Sulu and Sabah.
The adoption by the central government of the principle of subsidiarity through the accelerated devolution and decentralization of government functions, specifically fiscal autonomy.
[The first and second parts of this series came out on Saturday May 24 and Sunday May 25.]