SPECIAL REPORT (3): Transitioning from revolutionary group to governance team

COTABAO CITY (MindaNews/09 November) – Months before the hysteria over the P5-million fund for the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, Executive Secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), had discussed in a public forum the need to learn lessons from the Moro National Liberation Front’s experience after it signed the peace agreement in 1996.

Sinarimbo said that should the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sign a peace agreement by 2012, as both parties had earlier envisioned, signing would be the easiest part. “It is more difficult to implement it. To implement it successfully you need certain ingredients and one basic ingredient would be the capacity to govern. That’s important. We had an experience in 1996, with apologies to the members of the MNLF… in 1996 the MNLF did not transition from revolutionary government to one now mandated to govern.”

What happened, he said, was that the guerilla experience was brought into the ARMM.

“What was the problem there? Of course, when you’re a guerilla, you don’t make proposals in writing and you don’t refer your proposal to a Provincial Planning and Development Office for assessment. Neither are you required to prepare vouchers that will be reviewed by everybody, the Commission on Audit. You don’t do that in a revolutionary movement. In an insurgency, you don’t do that because only two elements are important to you: the element of surprise and the element of secrecy. In government, it is transparency and accountability and adherence to processes,” he said.

“What happened before was pag di nakasueldo 15 days, barilin ang kaha de yero … di dadaan sa proseso.” (if they weren’t able to draw salary in 15 days, they would shoot the vault) and detain the personnel of the cash division in their office. “These were among the challenges experienced in 1996,” Sinarimbo noted.


The same experience will be repeated, he warned, “if you are not careful about transitioning from a revolutionary movement, from a rebel group into governance. If you don’t have the capacity, you have to find some other way of doing it. One year hindi ho sufficient to capacitate people… sa capacity development, overnight we cannot transform them,” Sinarimbo said.

This is the reason why an institution like BLMI is “really important,” he said.


The government and MILF peace panels led by Silvestre Afable and Mohagher Iqbal had seen and foreseen these dangers. In their Joint Statement on February 7, 2006, they “reaffirmed the need to intensify capacity-building programs with the assistance and support of the international community and donor institutions” and “agreed in principle” to the establishment of the BLMI “as a capacity-building center for emerging leaders and professionals.”

On May 4, 2006, the panels “committed to move forward” the establishment of the BLMI which they envisioned to be “an agent of change in the social and political environment of the Bangsamoro people.”

In a statement on November 3, Afable said he was glad President Aquino gave P5 million to the BLMI, an institution that he said was an offshoot of the 2001 agreement setting up the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) to implement development projects.

“As the BDA grew, it needed more personnel who could receive, disburse and account for funds; and supervise incipient development teams. The BMLI was the envisioned training school for these personnel. We requested the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) to work on the basic curriculum and devote trainors to the project, which was done with enthusiasm and zeal,” Afable said.

He said institutions like the BDA and BLMI “must not be treated negatively, because these, alongside the ceasefire, provide the necessary climate for negotiations and stem the urge among fighters to shoot each other. One must be creative in offering alternatives to those who have been used to live by the gun.”


 Afable emphasized that confidence-building measures “lie in the meat of any peace process anywhere in the world.”

“While we seek a political solution in the peace talks, we try to safeguard the ceasefire like precious life itself, and carve out a positive direction for fighters-on-hold – who will hopefully trade their guns for ploughshares when a final settlement is reached,” he said.


The MILF, he added, “has tried its level best to abide by this negotiation-ceasefire-development model as a transitional mechanism to a final political settlement. Many Filipinos are cynical about this, but I appreciate the fact that President Aquino is not.”


Jesus Dureza, another former government peace panel chair and former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, in a statement on October 27, lamented that the “well-intentioned establishment of an institution that will somehow help capacitate the Bangsamoro is now mired in a public, but discomfiting discourse about money.”


“Its merit is lost unfortunately in the maze of the P5-million check controversy. I am truly sad,” he said.

In his opening statement at the peace talks in Kuala Lumpur on August 22, 18 days after President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim met in Japan and agreed to fast-track the peace process, government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen said: “As an execution of what our President promised during that meeting (in Japan) it was mentioned that indeed there is a balance for the BLMI of about five million pesos. The President there told the chair of the MILF that he is going to issue the check without any conditions except being able to answer for the auditing and give arrangements that we can carry the check today.”


At the end of the two-day talks, Leonen’s August 23 statement opened with the BLMI, that his panel carried a P5-million check for the institution “envisioned to be a center of excellence and repository of knowledge in the discipline of human resource development that produces individuals of impeccable character, equipped with exemplary leadership and managerial qualities for the transformation of the Bangsamoro people.”

The BLMI is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and its two-story training center is presently under construction in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, funded by the Grassroots Human Security Projects of the Japanese Embassy.

The Asia Foundation had earlier assisted the BLMI in the “Training of Trainers on training management” for the BLMI’s Steering Committee members and representatives and the training on “enhancing leadership capability of Bangsamoro women leaders.”

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews the BLMI has a program on “community extension services; also on IPs (indigenous peoples), but this is on hold since the building is still under construction.”

He said the MILF peace panel “provides oversight to the operation of the BLMI,” that members of the BLMI Steering Committee have two-year term in office and the term of the current members led by Dr. Tomanda Antok ends next month (December).

“The MILF believes that no matter how long the negotiation or even the war would take place, it will always end up with a political settlement and nation-building. Our people – the MILF is just a part – will have to be prepared for that,” he said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said the President’s decision to give the P5-million fund to the BLMI “was made on the basis not only of it being an agreement that the Government is bound to uphold, but also because he personally believes that this is an investment worth taking if there will be a shift in paradigm, from a culture of war to a culture of peace, cooperation and good governance among the Bangsamoro.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)