She was third year in college when her father passed away. For the family, it was challenging because they were dependent to the head of the family for daily sustenance including education. The mother was a full-time housewife.
Julhaina Cadon, 46, said that when that happened, the family really struggled to move on. However, despite the challenges, she finished her education with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychology in a university in Cotabato City.
“When I finished, alhamdulillah I was able to find a job immediately. I worked at the office of Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) particularly in cash division as cash assistant” Julhaina told.
She narrates that because of that job, she was able to provide for the education of her other siblings who all earned a professional degree from college. There were two engineers, one with BS Biology diploma and one with BS Business Administration.
With her experience of providing for the family, Julhaina developed further sense of responsibility, including on the matter of managing financial resources.
In 2002, Julhaina joined the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“I was informed by some friends about the call for Bangsamoro professionals to volunteer in helping the Bangsamoro people who are in need, through the BDA”, she said.
Julhaina was among those who responded to that call because she saw it as one way to contribute to the Bangsamoro jihad (struggle).
Back then, she was already aware of the struggle in her homeland since the family supports the noble fight. Her uncles and cousins were members of the MILF. So, it was not hard for her to understand that working at BDA that time, provides no definite salary or none at all.
At the agency, Julhaina was tasked a job related to finance since her previous work was the same. She worked as cash assistant, which she was already skilled in. That time, BDA was engaged in different small partnership where she was in-charge of the “in and out” of funds on activity based. She was also in charge of submitting the financial report of the office.
In the beginning, it was still hard for her even if she already has an experience on finance- related tasks.
As a graduate of psychology, she can only rely on her previous job as reference. However, Julhaina understood that working at BDA as part of Bangsamoro struggle alludes that: “there is NO as an answer to an order, we can only obey”.
Julhaina was with the finance section of BDA for twelve years until she was designated as Operation’s Officer for one year for the Tahderriyah Project with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a Project Coordinator for three years of the Program for Local Economic Development Through Enlightened Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (PLEDGE), with the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Commitment over self- interest
It was in 2017 when she was appointed back to the Finance Division of the BDA.
She said that it was a long story why there were changes of position for her at the agency.
She conveys that letting go of responsibilities may be hard and sacrificing your own interest is unavoidable, but as a volunteer, she is already committed and dedicated to the Bangsamoro cause.
Back at finance works, Julhaina leads the management of the financial resources of the BDA. It is noted that the agency continues to institutionalize its operation as an organization wherein finance matters are vital.
“Finance is very important in any organization not just in BDA because it is the backbone of the organization. Financial resources are there in order to operate and serve as the fuel of the human resources. No matter how many human resources or good the plan is, if the organization doesn’t have financial resources to sustain it, it would not be realized” Julhaina stated.
She agrees that it is very important in every organization especially on how it will be managed properly to sustain the operation. (She expresses that the importance of finance in an organization is contingent to its proper management that contributes to the sustainability of operations.) In the case of the BDA, an organization that started with very limited resources and still dependent on projects funds, financial management is indeed crucial.
However, Julhaina is confident that BDA, with its years of operation, the agency is already capable of handling financial resources. (However, Julhaina is confident that with its years of operations, BDA is already more than capable of handling financial resources)
“Currently, the financial system of BDA is already practiced. Our policies and guidelines are in placed. We already have our administrative and financial manuals, also operational manuals that serves as guidance on how we move forward when it comes to financial operation of BDA” she told.
Julhaina added that despite of this, the manual can still be enhanced depending on pertinency, must be aligned to the current trends, moreover to the context of the Bangsamoro.
She shares experience on the journey of the BDA to systematize its financial management along with the institutionalization of the agency in general.
“It was not easy, because we know for a fact that in Bangsamoro, there is really a different context,” Julhaina said.
BDA receives project from different donors and each of them requires variety of financial policies that the agency has to adhere (in addition to its own policies)
“So, we have to deal with that and we have to carefully cascade that information to our staff at BDA, because imposing a policy was not that easy. Some would refuse to believe and obey, but we have to work more considering local context”, she told.
Julhaina believes that at BDA and in the Bangsamoro, in general, financial management is not only about complying to the policies and guidelines.
“It is as if working for the global standards while considering the local context”, she said.
Why centavo matters for accountability?
For Julhaina, working for finance is equivalent to accountability. Hence, her team at finance division continuously work together to ensure that every centavo in a whole project cost for instance, is well-accounted.
“In a project, there is work and financial planning, where each activity is provided with specific budget to deliver the expected outputs of the project. We do accounting to see if each cent is spent according to its purpose”, she said.
In doing this, Julhaina and her team has been used to confrontations from other staff in the office whenever they impose policies and look for unrecorded amount.
However, such situation is usually settled easily with proper communication and information, and by the cooperation of other people in the organization.
“It is quite difficult but it is our responsibility, because we are entrusted. And for the case of BDA, as development arm of the MILF, whatever our performance is will always have impact to the capacity and image of the Bangsamoro”,
She added that “we always carry the name of the MILF, and attached to that is the peace process that the whole Bangsamoro has been in, so we are always reminded of that”.
BDA was established in 2002 in accordance with the humanitarian, rehabilitation and development aspects of the GPH-MILF Tripoli Agreement of 2001. The agency was primarily mandated to lead, manage and determine relief and rehabilitation in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. Further, BDA was created to help build capacity of the Bangsamoro for future governance role.
Julhaina believes that BDA shall strive more on financial management as it is a vital part of project and organizational management, and hopefully to contribute to the governance function of the Bangsamoro.
“We were trained on this field for past 19 years, dealing with different policies imposed by various donor and we are pleased that for that years of service, BDA’s performance on financial management remains acceptable to international partners”, she told.
She ended that “Every centavo counts because it is part of the resources intended to help address the needs of the people- and that’s when peace starts. Also, when each cent is spent according to its purpose, there will be no mistrust, no corruption. Centavo contributes to peace because it speaks of the trust, that is very important to build and sustain harmony and understanding between people and partners.”