CONVERSATIONS with Dong Cusain: “The best thing about IM is .. everyone can freely express his opinion, even if it won’t be palatable to others”

(Conversations with Abdullah “Dong” Cusain, Deputy Executive Secretary of the
Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, on 11 April 2019)

Abdullah “Dong” Cusain, Deputy Executive Secretary, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Q .What we’re interested in is about Insider Mediators… Does it still have a role in this new government?
A. I really look at the IM as a group of progressive-minded individuals, let’s say a mixture of individuals from diverse experience and callings in life. I would not say the IM is a group that espouses common issues, I know – there are differences in opinions about how they look at issues — but the best thing about IM is a forum wherein everyone can freely express his opinion, even if it won’t be palatable to others.

As for the role, I think it still relevant now as it was before since almost all IMs naman are in one way or the other very much involved in the Bangsamoro cause.

How these individuals interpret the Bangsamoro cause, well that’s the beauty in having diverse opinions. The end result is that it’s like a rainbow. It’s made of different colors. In its totality, maganda yung kinalabasan. So I do believe IMs still have a role to perform, whether it is being performed consciously or not as IM. That for me doesn’t really matter at all. What is important is that we offer insights and hopefully we contribute kahit na maliit na wisdom sa mga issues.

Q. I understand quite a number of IMs are now in the Bangsamoro government.
A. Yes, marami yung mga IMs from several batches. Right now in the BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), there are IMs in the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority), BTA members themselves, IMs who are Cabinet ministers, IMs who are senior level management. So I think these IMs including myself are now in positions to articulate …

Q. Considering that it actually helped in the passage of the law and eventually in setting up the government .. I don’t know if you already met as IMs you’ve discussed this before. What are the priorities that you are focusing on now that you are in government, now that you are insiders in the Bangsamoro government.
A. Actually, ang daming priorities sa mga previous meetings. Una, lagi rin namang lumalabas sa discussion doon for instance the issue on Marawi rehabilitation. It’s still a recurring matter, even … in our group chat. And then of course, though many issues have not yet been discussed in great length, but very diverse such issues in governance … on how we can really help our society based on their individual stations in life. The priorities actually are many… But there’s one beauty to that – free-wheeling discussions on issues are noted. Probably the loose structure of the IMs and the geographic origins ng mga members, even holding them, the scheduling is a little bit of challenge. Maybe that’s one thing that the IM can take a deep look into. Maybe we can do some clustering (as) trying to have all the members in one sitting is quite difficult. Maybe we can do some clustering. These are just my suggstions.

Q. Insider Mediators inside the BARMM
A. Well of course yung IM started .. with the idea that this group bridging with the civil society government and other institutions but of course there will be some reflections on maybe new roles, especially now that IMs are now very much part of government

Q. So you will not be as onion-skinned as — you don’t have the right to be onion-skinned, di ba?
A. The IMs used to, including myself, used to criticize the government but of course being now in government takes that away from us. While of course we have to defend our actions or inaction here in government, we hope to maintain that critical awareness and thinking.