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Tuesday, 14 June 2022 11:47

Ramadhan in Bangsamoro

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April 7, 2022. Ramadhan is the ninth month in Hijra Calendar. It is a holy month in Islam. Ramadan is a month of sharing. It is a month where rewards to good deeds are multiplied. During Ramadhan, Muslims (believers of Islam religion) around the world perform fasting. They only eat for suhoor (meal before sun rise) and break the fast at sunset. Fasting on Ramadhan is the fourth among the five pillars of Islam.

As regularly being preached, Ramadhan is not only about burning of fats and calories, moreover, it is a chance for the Muslims to burn their pride and sins. This blessed month encourages Muslims to multiple their good deeds, because it is said that the gates of heaven are open this time. Worldwide, common practice among various organizations is the distribution of food items to most needy communities, affected by poverty, crisis, natural calamities, war, others.

In Bangsamoro, Southern Philippines, known for its history of conflict and struggle, different humanitarian institutions come every year to deliver assistance to conflict- affected families in the region.

Food packs provided to selected families are significant to supplement the daily meals of the beneficiaries, who are usually relying to daily income for day-to-day living.

Saadia Alipolo, 64 a senior citizen in Brgy. Matuber, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao received 16 kilos of rice along with other food items this Ramadhan. Living with her family of four, with the four grandchildren, Saadia said that the items will be good enough for the family’s meal for at least seven days.

Bong Ansa, a farmer and fisherman has four kids and is happy receiving also food packs this Ramadhan. Like him, Nasir Bunter, an operator of pump-boat, with five children, did not mind the heavy rain just to get the relief goods for his family this holy month. They are from Brgy. Katidtuan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

A mother beneficiary in Kabuntalan, Maguindanao was speechless when she was receiving the food pack. She could not even utter his name, because of overflowing emotion and repeatedly saying “shukran (thank you), we will have food for suhoor”. She does laundry and dishwashing, while her husband does fishing and sometimes construction works, to sustain the family.

Orphans in Bangsamoro are also receiving Ramadhan aid this blessed month. Some are chosen for free Iftar (breaking of fast) and others are getting gifts, usually prayer dress/ clothes.

Inspiring stories

In a neighborhood in Cotabato City, people voluntarily share any amount from which, the total cost will be used to buy food that they can eat together to break the fast before a congregational prayer upon sunset.

It is common among rural communities to share foods on Ramadhan. Neighbors usually share the food they have in belief that food shared are more blessed.

Non- fasting Muslims, usually women (due to menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding or illness) can earn rewards while not fasting on Ramadhan. They can help prepare foods for Iftar, an act which is being blessed. Good deeds counted are not limited to preparation or cooking for meals, doing house chores during Ramadhan and after meals e.g., washing the dishes are also rewarded. "Every good deed is charity." (Sahih Muslim 1005). 

Al-Bukhaari (1425) narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If a woman gives from the food that is in her house, without causing any damage [i.e., without spending unreasonably], she will have a reward for what she gave, and her husband will have a reward for what he earned, and the storekeeper will have a similar reward, without the reward of any of them detracting from the reward of the others at all.

Religious activities

Informed by the phrase ‘Whoever feeds a person breaking his fast will earn the same reward as him, without anything being lessened from the reward of the fasting person’. [Tirmidhi]”, Muslims who can afford sponsor free meals for iftar (breaking of fast). Some organize symposium where a religious leader is invited to deliver teachings about Ramadhan and Islam. Individuals are encouraged to read the holy Qur’an during this month. Taraweh (an evening prayer during Ramadhan) is a not obligatory but Muslims are strongly encouraged to perform it. It is a confirmed Sunnah. Abu Hurayrah said:The Prophet used to urge the people to pray night prayers in Ramadan without him authoritatively ordering them to do so.” The Prophet said: “Whoever stands at night prayer in Ramadan while believing in Allah Who prescribed it and while seeking its reward from Him, will have his past sins forgiven. [Muslim]

Ramadhan Fair

In Bangsamoro Region, Ramadhan Fair is opened every year in relevance to this holy month. Food stalls along with other items that is relevant to Ramadhan are typically available at Ramadhan Fairs. Fairs are decorated with colorful lights that gives attraction to people visiting the place. People usually come after Taraweh to enjoy local attractions, meet with friends and or relatives and eat foods together, buy non- food items like prayer clothes, hijab (veil), others. Ramadhan Fair helps local entrepreneurs while promoting the spirit of this holy month by getting together during this time of the blessed month.

Dishes in Ramadhan

Ramadhan may not only be a fasting from foods, but let us be honest about loving and craving for special foods during this blessed month.

For this article, it is fair to say that it is not actually forbidden to buy luxurious foods on Ramadhan, especially that one can afford it. But as Muslims, we must always be reminded of humility and compassion to others, especially those who are less fortunate. One can have the best food, and it would be best of the best if it is shared to others.

On Ramadhan, local restaurants install food stands right outside their location for easy pick-up of buyers. This strategy is saleable to people who have limited time for cooking and preparation of foods.

Ramadhan and peacebuilding

Ramadhan brings a special message to mankind. As fasting is required for all Muslim, regardless of social status (with exemption for those in special conditions e.g., health), everyone will have the same feeling of hunger and thirst, hot, hardship and sacrifice, thus the rich realize the life of the poor who experience limited food on their table, and difficulties to survive life, most of the time.

During this holy month, non- Muslims become used to the culture and are respectful to friends, neighbors and colleagues who are fasting on Ramadhan. In Bangsamoro Region, office hours are usually modified in this month to give enough time for the Muslim employees to do preparations for Iftar and other relevant activities. Classes in regular schools (before the pandemic) were also modified to less the burden to Muslim students.

Ramadhan is also a month of forgiveness. This month is divided into three parts; the 1st ten days (rahmah/ mercy); 2nd ten days (maghfirah/ forgiveness) and; last ten days (nijat/ safety from hellfire).

On the 2nd ten days, Muslim seeks forgiveness from Allah (s.w.t). It is the period for repentance and rebuilding relations between those who were in conflict, thus promoting peace.

Every Ramadhan, it is a common prayer that everyone may feel and enliven the true spirit of this significant month, and the message of love, patience, hope and peace.

COTABATO CITY/ April 26, 2022.  Carrying the banner “certainly the believers are brothers”, various humanitarian foundations from Turkey send food packs for thousands of families in Bangsamoro this holy month of Ramadhan.

Turkey has been supportive of the peace process and has been sponsoring numerous development and humanitarian projects in the Bangsamoro communities.

This year, Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi (TDV) who sent representatives, distributed food packages to 1, 500 needy families in Cotabato City and in the municipalities of Sultan Kudarat, Datu Blah Sinsuat, and Parang all in Maguindanao province.

500 Moro orphans smiled upon receiving Ramadhan/ Eid Gifts from TDV that contained prayer dress/ clothe (with hijab/ veil for girls).

Sadaqatasi, whose sponsors led the distribution of food packages benefited 400 families outside BARMM, a group of women and widows in Maguindanao and boat operators in Cotabato City.  

Weltweiter Einsatz für Arme (WEFA), distributed 100 food packs this blessed month. The organization is also sponsoring free meals for iftar (breaking of fast) to selected orphanage centers in Cotabato City. WEFA also sponsored gifts for the orphans that made their Ramadhan more meaningful.

Representatives from Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) joined also during the delivery of 1, 400 number of food packages to needy families in Maguindanao. IHH also sponsored free iftar to selected orphanages in Bangsamoro.

In a short message, Turkish brothers said “let us all pray that there will be more ridzki (blessing), so that we can help more families in need”.

Beneficiaries’ stories

Each year, in the implementation of Ramadhan Program, we see and hear stories of our beneficiaries who are all grateful for the blessing they received this holy month.

Saadia Alipolo, 64 a senior citizen in Brgy. Matuber, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao received 16 kilos of rice along with other food items this Ramadhan. Living with her family of four, with the four grandchildren. Saadia said that the items will be good enough for the family’s meal for at least seven days.

Bong Ansa, a farmer and fisherman has four kids and is happy receiving also food packs this Ramadhan. Like him, Nasir Bunter, an operator of pump-boat, with five children, did not mind the heavy rain just to get the relief goods for his family this holy month. They are from Brgy. Katidtuan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

A mother beneficiary in Kabuntalan, Maguindanao was speechless when she was receiving the food pack. She could not even utter his name, because of overflowing emotion and repeatedly saying “shukran (thank you), we will have food for suhoor”. She does laundry and dishwashing, while her husband does fishing and sometimes construction works, to sustain the family.

Since 2014, the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.), has been facilitating the implementation of Ramadhan Program within and outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Through the program, BDA Inc. helps in sending the message of Ramadhan, which is about giving, sharing, and sacrifice. It helps send the message of love, hope and peace in the region, whose people are still recovering from armed conflict in the past, living with the current COVID-19 pandemic and by the recent natural calamity this month. Data from the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) states that more or less 70, 000 families in BARMM were displaced due to flood caused by Typhoon Agaton that hit the Philippines April 2022. (BDA Communication Team)

In BARMM, it is a reality that information about basic human rights is underprovided. During the series of focus group discussion conducted by the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.), people in BARMM shared stories and concerns related to human rights.

In Brgy. Nabalawag, Barira, Maguindanao, one participant reported that many of the people in their village do not know their human rights. They hope to be educated about their rights and that there will be awareness activity related to human rights per sector in the community.

In Jolo, Sulu, a representative from partner civil society organization (CSO) shared that human rights education is very important for them, because there is less information dissemination in their locality about HR.

With the current implementation of the project SUBATRA-ECSO (Enhancing CSOs Capacities for Inclusive Development Intervention in BARMM in Support to Bangsamoro Transition), BDA is working for the advancement of human rights promotion and protection in Bangsamoro in partnership with the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission (BHRC).

A writeshop for the development of module on human rights in Bangsamoro was conducted on May 25-27, 2022 in Cotabato City.

 

During the activity, participants shared their basic understanding and experiences on human rights. They worked together in writing the module guided by the inputs from Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission (BHRC) and Bangsamoro Darul Ifta.

A resource person was contracted by the project to work for this writeshop and consolidate the inputs from the activity to be able to develop the module on human rights.

BDA organized the activity with support from BHRC, Bangsamoro Youth Commission, Bangsamoro Women Commission, Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs (MIPA), and the Ministry of Public Order and Safety (MPOS).

Participation of various CSOs were also vital during the activity. They were Raja Mamalo Descendants for Southern Philippines, Inc., Ittihadun Nisa Foundation, Inc., Kapagawida Development Services Association, Inc., League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO- Tawi- Tawi and Lanao office), Kabalikat CIVICOM from Sulu, and Taga Youth from Basilan.

After the activity, it is expected that the module will be finalized, approved and adopted by BARMM in advancing the promotion and protection of human rights towards a just governance for all in the region that shall contribute to peaceful and cohesive transition in Bangsamoro.

BDA as implementing agency of the project will be using this module to train the community human rights defenders who will be organized following the writeshop.

It was January 2022, when BDA and BHRC signed a memorandum of understanding for the common goal to advance the promotion and protection of human rights in Bangsamoro communities.

BHRC is optimistic that this particular intervention of the project on human rights will be significant in improving the mechanisms and services related to HR in Bangsamoro.

“For instance, through the organizing of community human rights defenders, there will be community active participation on the prevention, promotion and protection of human rights. The government will have counterpart from the grassroots to watch and report for human rights situation at the community level”, BHRC told.

Advancing human rights promotion and protection in Bangsamoro is part of the SUBATRA-ECSO project’s target that is to improve the access to basic social services and social protection projects of vulnerable/marginalized groups in Bangasamoro.  

SUBATRA-ECSO works for the Component 4 of the SUBATRA Programme that helps BARMM lay the foundation for lasting peace and development in the region by strengthening the capacities of its institutions to establish an enabling democratic governance environment during the transition period.

The Project generally aims to contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secure and inclusively developed Bangsamoro. It specifically intends to enhance the capacity of the civil society to contribute to a peaceful transition to BARMM. 

It is funded by the European Union (#EU), and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (#AECID).

(March 28, 2022). With the on-going transition in the Bangsamoro, how is change happening and being felt at the ground? How are the information and public service reaching the communities?

In the implementation of the SUBATRA-ECSO Project (Enhancing CSOs Capacities for Inclusive Development Interventions in BARMM in Support to Bangsamoro Transition), the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.) is working on the gathering of data regarding the needs and real-life situations of vulnerable sectors in the Bangsamoro communities like women, widows, orphans, transitioning combatants, elderlies, PWDs and indigenous people. This effort also targets issues on human rights at the grassroots level.

BDA is working with the Ittihadun Nisa Foundation, Inc. (INFO) and the Social Welfare Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for this objective.

Initial data and information are already available from the recent data consolidation workshop conducted on March 19-20, 2022 in Cotabato City. The data were gathered from the focus- group discussion (FGD) organized in various communities of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces including two barangays in Special Geographical Areas of BARMM from February 24 to March 17, 2022.

Members of SWC who facilitated the FGDs underwent data gathering training on February 24- 25, 2022 before they went to those communities. The training also covered education on basic human rights discussed by the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission (BHRC).

Partners from the Raja Mamalo Descendants of Southern Philippines, Inc. led the FGD with the indigenous people groups in Maguindanao.

Meanwhile, FGDs for the island of Tawi- Tawi and Sulu were already completed and for Basilan will be happening this week. Data consolidation will be conducted through an online activity.

BDA as implementing agency of the SUBATRA-ECSO will be validating the data gathered after the consolidation. This will be the basis to determine the assistance appropriate for the target groups of the project. The data will also be presented to BARMM ministries for possible complementation of aid to the communities in need in the region.

SUBATRA-ECSO works for the Component 4 of the SUBATRA Programme that helps BARMM lay the foundation for lasting peace and development in the region by strengthening the capacities of its institutions to establish an enabling democratic governance environment during the transition period.

The Project generally aims to contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secure and inclusively developed Bangsamoro. It specifically intends to enhance the capacity of the civil society to contribute to a peaceful transition to BARMM.

It is funded by the European Union (#EU), and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (#AECID).

March 24, 2022. In this era of internet connectivity during the pandemic and of the development in the on-going transition within the Bangsamoro, how do the communities from the Island provinces in the region access information for basic services from the government?

Aware of the realities related to communication technology in the Island provinces of Tawi- Tawi, Sulu and Basilan, the team of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.) recently took a mission in these islands in relation to the implementation of the SUBATRA-ECSO Project.

Part of the project as introduced to the communities of Tawi- Tawi, Sulu and Basilan, is the focus on connecting the BARMM to its people to be able to improve public service delivery.

During the meeting with the people in Brgy. Pasiagan, Bongao, Tawi- Tawi, one woman said that they have been longing to feel BARMM, and believes that this is the beginning of it, through BDA, with this project.

In Sulu, specific concern on health was documented. “There are available medicines in our village health center, but is not accessible because we do not know the prescription”.

In Basilan, local leaders in Hadji Mohammad Ajul and Al-barka believes that projects focusing on education and empowerment is much appropriate for their people compare to infrastructure project because it will help promote understanding and enlightenment needed by the communities.

“There have been infra projects here, but were not anymore functional due to lack of capacity of the people on operation, maintenance and sustainability. Peace and order is also a factor”, the local leader said.

The meeting with the local leaders and residents of Tawi- Tawi was on March 10-11, 2022, Sulu was on March 14-15 and Basilan on March 17-18.

During these series of meetings in the island provinces, BDA introduced the Project, SUBATRA-ECSO and talked about the interventions intended for the specific target groups like women, widows, orphans, transitioning combatants, elderlies, PWDs and indigenous people.

BDA Project Team explained that the project is helping the BARMM during the on-going transition by reaching out the communities and get their needs and concerns in their respective communities.

The project components are assistance for vulnerable groups, advancing human rights promotion and protection in the Bangsamoro, social enterprise development and community- feedback mechanism.

The community members we met and the LGU welcomed the project and appreciated the effort of reaching out to them, despite the distance.

“Even at this moment of our first meeting for this project, we are already happy. We hope that this is not the last time that you came here. We really need assistance, for instance, the case of the orphans here. We hope that you will come back”, a woman from Brgy. Malacca said.

For the project activities in the island provinces, BDA is working with partners CSOs like Taga Youth Concern Association in Basilan, Kabalicat CIVICOM in Sulu and the League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO) through its member organization UNYPAD in Tawi- Tawi.

SUBATRA-ECSO works for the Component 4 of the SUBATRA Programme that helps BARMM lay the foundation for lasting peace and development in the region by strengthening the capacities of its institutions to establish an enabling democratic governance environment during the transition period.

The Project generally aims to contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secure and inclusively developed Bangsamoro. It specifically intends to enhance the capacity of the civil society to contribute to a peaceful transition to BARMM.

It is funded by the European Union (#EU), and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (#AECID).

March 23, 2022. Managing expectations, sustaining trust, confidence and peace to help improve public service delivery and communicate change in governance. Towards these goals, communication strategies shall be strengthened; to help improve access of information from top to bottom- then going back upward. This will be significant to ensure that the needs of the people are properly responded and for them also to do their part as citizens of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

From a mountainous village in Buldon, Maguindanao in Bangsamoro Region, a local leader reported that many of their people do not know human rights. “We do not know human rights; the vulnerable sectors do not know. We hope that the BARMM government will help us be educated about our rights; for every sector like women, youth, elderlies, PWDs, and all”, he stated.

From a village in Island province of BARMM, people long for assistance and access to information on how to avail government services.

In camp communities, the common question is “what now is the news from BARMM”?

These stories from the grassroots partly becomes one of the bases to get into a mission of “raising awareness about BARMM Projects and the people’s rights and obligations under the Bangsamoro Government, which is among the target outputs of the project SUBATRA-ECSO: Enhancing CSOs Capacities for Inclusive Development Interventions in BARMM in Support to Bangsamoro Transition.

Towards the said target, the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.) collaborated with the Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO) and the Bangsamoro League of Information Officers (BLIO) to take off for this mission on developing communication strategies through the Inception Meeting for SUBATRA-ECSO conducted recently on March 16, 2022 in Cotabato City.

The meeting was a venue for the information officers of Bangsamoro to share experiences, best practices, needs and priorities relevant to communication roles during the current transition in Bangsamoro, and on public service delivery.

Participation of civil society organization through the League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO) was significant to educate the BARMM ministries, agencies and attached offices and the BDA as well, about their operation and communication practices in carrying out its mandate as one league.

BDA likewise shared communication plan for SUBATRA-ECSO highlighting the message of the peace process being the origin of all the present development in the Bangsamoro. 

From the activity, BDA, BARMM BIO and BLIO and the LBO were able to initially identify possible areas of complementation and collaboration for future activities. A communication planning workshop will be among the major next steps for the body to further set the direction to achieve together the said specific target output of the project.

It was clear that this collaboration between the BARMM Government and the CSOs (BDA and LBO) carries the same message of peace through inclusive and moral governance.

This Inception Meeting with BARMM- BIO/ BLIO was in line with the implementation of the SUBATRA-ECSO. The project works for the Component 4 of the SUBATRA Programme that helps the BARMM lay the foundation for lasting peace and development in the region by strengthening the capacities of its institutions to establish an enabling democratic governance environment during the transition period.

SUBATRA-ECSO aims to contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secure and inclusively developed Bangsamoro.

It is funded by the European Union (#EU) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (#AECID).

February 8, 2021. Moral Governance has become the call of the BARMM in carrying the responsibility of governing and serving the Bangsamoro, and towards the change that the Bangsamoro Government aspired for its people and territory.

“Moral governance means that the acts of the Bangsamoro Government must be legal and legitimate; its policy-making rational and deliberative; it is responsible to its people and ensures checks, balances and accountability to them. In other words, a government composed of public servants- in its real sense. Servants who are prepared to sacrifice their well-being for the well-being of the people whom they serve.” 

This was how moral governance was defined based on the Keynote Speech of BARMM Interim Chief Minister Hon. Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, delivered by Assistant Regional Cabinet Secretary Atty. Ayla Herazade E. Salendab, during the Kaakbay Kapayapaan: Civil Society Peace and Solidarity Assembly on 25 November 2019.

On the call for moral governance, one relevant strategy that was believed to be helpful is the values transformation training (popularly known as VTT). It is a flagship program of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.) since inception as an organization. BDA is the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and a duly registered non-government organization since 2019. 

VTT is designed to inculcate values towards personality and spiritual development. The training has been a powerful instrument for the BDA to organize, mobilize, strengthen and sustain its pool of volunteers and people. It has been integrated to all other projects and programs of BDA propagating the message of peace through the teaching of Universal values and importance of faith.  

It was in May 2019 when BARMM, particularly the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority (BPDA) reached out to BDA to share topics on VTT during the Values Orientation Workshop (VOW) conducted by the Civil Service Commission-BARMM.

On October 2019, the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG-BARMM) tapped BDA to facilitate VTT that was then integrated to the training course program intended for the future Municipal Local Government Operations Officer (MLGOO).

By December 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR-BARMM), contracted the BDA to facilitate VTT to its employees at the ministry.

Believing further to the relevance of VTT, the Technical Education and Skills Development (TESD, formerly TESDA in ARMM) under the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the BDA for the agency to manage the values training for the scholars of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) across BARMM.

That year, thousands of TVET scholars composed of youth, women and men, from different religion and faith learned and were enlightened about the importance of values towards personality development and spiritual appreciation/ practice.

VTT has then become popular in almost TESD- accredited trainings centers in all the five provinces of BARMM. This significant development continued until 2021. The same year when BARMM officially recognized the VTT to be instrumental in pursuit of moral governance through the Development Academy of the Bangsamoro (DAB), wherein series of meetings were happening between the latter and the BDA to agree on the modalities of implementing VTT in BARMM.

From this, various offices in BARMM through the DAB requested BDA to facilitate VTT for their respective employees. Participants all expressed words of appreciation and commitment to change after joining VTT.

VTT is also relevant to the group of decommissioned combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who are undergoing transition from decades of being involved in war into normal civilian life. Values training for these combatants is in partnership with the Non- violent Peaceforce, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP), and the Task Force for the Decommissioned Combatants (TFDCC).  

It is recorded that there were 357 (in 12 batches) of decommissioned combatants who underwent VTT in 2021.

A responsibility and honor for BDA

Managing the VTT, especially that it is inspired by the support to the moral governance is indeed a great responsibility and honor to BDA Inc. As an agency created out of the peace process, facilitating VTT is privilege for the BDA Inc. as it is committed to remain functional during the transition in the Bangsamoro.

Handling values training for the employees of BARMM means trust and confidence to the capacity of the BDA Inc. thus pushed the agency to firm up institutional policies, direction and support related to the management of VTT. For the BDA Inc., managing VTT is a fruit of over a decade of volunteerism, especially for the pool of trainers who have been developed to deliver the topics on values training, effectively, efficiently and faithfully.

It is an honor that BDA Inc. can share the best practice on VTT that has been a strong foundation of the agency to remain standing as organization operating in the context of conflict and now, with the development era in the Bangsamoro. The VTT that is in line with the guiding principle “change must begin with one’s self” (“Verily, Allaah will not change the (good) condition of a people as long as they do not change their state (of goodness) themselves [al-Ra’d 13:11])

 

 

 

 

January 24, 2022.  The role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in achieving peace in the Bangsamoro Region is indeed evident and commendable. In a message during the Project Launch of the Enhancing CSO Capacities for Inclusive Development Interventions in BARMM (SUBATRA-ECSO) on September 30, 2021 via zoom, Hon. Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, interim chief minister of BARMM recognized the important role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in advancing the peace process and in achieving peace and development in Bangsamoro Region.

“CSOs have played an important role in the Bangsamoro peace process. The CSOs were vital in the eventual passage of the legislation calling for the extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Period. That alone speaks highly of CSOs power and capacity to make lasting social change”, Chief Minister Ebrahim said.

With this confidence, the SUBATRA-ECSO project has been launched and currently operating with various Bangsamoro CSOs working together to contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secure and inclusively developed Bangsamoro.

The project is being led by the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.), the development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and a duly registered non-government organization way back in 2019.

For the SUBATRA-ECSO, BDA Inc. will lead various CSOs in the Bangsamoro based on their experience and field of expertise related to peacebuilding for the project implementation. These CSOs will help in implementing projects that shall respond to the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in the region.

The League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO) is tapped for the objective on raising awareness about BARMM projects and the rights and obligations of its people. The all-women organization named Ittihadun-Nisa Foundation, Inc. (INFo) is helping the project specifically on interventions targeting women and children.

Particular assistance for the indigenous people in BARMM will be carried out together with the Rajah Mamalo Descendants of Southern Philippines, Inc. (RMDSP). The Kapagawida Development Services Association, Inc. (KDSAi) is being collaborated for the management of Alternative Learning System (ALS) in camp communities.

The Busikong Greenland Multipurpose Cooperative will help to provide significant guidance on sustainable agriculture. The Moropreneur Inc. (TMI) committed to support the project on the matter of social enterprise development, marketing, among others.

CSOs in the island province of Bangsamoro are also being collaborated for the project. Tagah Youth Concern Association is tapped for their capacity and experience on organizing and establishing youth who are among the target groups identified for this project. The Kabalikat Civicom will help on risk management trainings, especially in the islands.  

All these CSOs will also undergo different capacity building and enhancement trainings like project management, conflict-sensitive planning and programming, financial, administrative and procurement management, among others.

It is anticipated that the collaboration of the BDA Inc. with these CSOs is a journey of learning and growing together, to further intensify the power and capacity of these organizations all working with common aspirations for the Bangsamoro.

It is noted that BDA Inc. has already signed a Memorandum of Collaboration (MoC) with four of the eight CSOs namely LBO, INFO, KDSAI and RMDSP on December 27, 2021. Similar agreement will also be inked with the other four CSOs in the next coming days.

BDA Inc. also had a planning workshop with the LBO, INFO, KDSAI and RMDSP to firm up activity schedules, which are already happening, as of this writing.

For the BDA Inc. as lead organization, engaging the CSO in the development process of BARMM during the transition period shall expand their base of support especially when CSO-based initiatives to reinforce normalization are given priorities.

Further, the BDA Inc. believes that through CSOs, adopting social policies that promote income generation and sustainability will not only attempt to reduce poverty but will also encourage the groups to achieve self-help practices for permanent stability.

The SUBATRA-ECSO project is funded by the European Union (#EU) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (#AECID). It is a project component under the Justice and Society of the whole SUBATRA Program that helps BARMM lay the foundation for lasting peace and development in the region by strengthening the capacities of its institutions to establish an enabling democratic governance environment during the transition period.

Narrated by Anisa, the chairman called her to go to Manila for an activity that she barely knows.

“That time, according to her, we can only follow orders, no question or complaint”, Anisa told.

In obedience, she packed her things and get the plane ticket provided and was ready to board for the task given to her together with a colleague in the organization.

She recalls that it was month of January 2000, months before the all-out-war that year, broke out between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Upon arrival in Manila, Anisa immediately dialed the phone number given to her, then someone fetched them from the airport.

They reached the hotel where they stayed for the activity, which they later knew was about a meeting or consultation with women of MILF and MNLF organized by the government.

Today, Anisa is telling this story to the young and present staff of Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) to share them narratives of how the agency and its people worked despite the uncertainties and lack of resources.

BDA now BDA Inc. (as non-government organization) was established in 2002 as development arm of the MILF primarily mandated to lead, manage and determine relief and rehabilitation in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.

Anisa is one of the senior employees and volunteers of BDA Inc. and remain a dedicated and committed Bangsamoro woman worker up until today.

“I joined BDA in 2004 when we were informed that the MILF is calling for volunteers to work for the agency. I was then a member of the secretariat of the late Hashim Salamat (MILF Founding Chairman).

She recalls that it was in 2004 when BDA volunteers worked together for the development of the Values Transformation Training (VTT) along with other modules that guided the agency during its early years.

Anisa was among those who worked together during the early days of BDA, that time with very limited resources and recognition of partners and stakeholders due to its peculiar identity; not a government organization nor non-government organization.

“Our life then at the agency was purely driven by volunteerism”, Anisa shared.

 According to her, there was no specified salary or allowance for all the workers. Everyone was aware and understood that the services rendered for the agency were part of the Bangsamoro struggle and the hard work and efforts were all counted and be rewarded hereafter.

Anisa is the eldest of four children; three girls and one boy. The family is from Kurintem, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. The mother managed a small coffee shop serving local dishes with native brewed coffee, where she earns a living for the family aside from farming.

The father passed away when Anisa and her siblings were still young.

“In fact, I cannot remember him, because maybe I was too young that time. What I know is that, our mother was three-month pregnant with our youngest when Ama (father) left us in this world.

As one of pioneering volunteers of the BDA, Anisa is known as the “Ate ng Lahat” (big sister to all). She is the most frank, furious, courageous yet honest and generous friend, fellow and a sister to everyone she works with.

“Tatalakan ka nya ng todo-todo, pero pag marinig na nya ang kwento mo, sasabihin nya na lang “aday mambu/ kawawa ka naman. (She would scold you intensely, but later when she hears your story, she would say “how poor you situation” with sympathy”),” a friend describes Anisa.

As a Moro woman, she learned about Bangsamoro struggle when she was in elementary school and has become active at the age of fifteen (15).

“We were told to join the training for the Medical Team of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). That time, no MILF yet”, Anisa said.

As youth, she was aware of her being active in community activities and joining and responding to the call and recruitment at the community level seemed natural for her.

“No one was ordering me to join, it was really me who voluntarily involving myself”, she told.

Then when there was MILF, Anisa became part of the Social Welfare Committee (SWC), the women wing of the organization. She joined the organizing of the committee at the community level, going to municipalities in various provinces of then Kutawato Empire.

That time, Anisa had to stop schooling for two years since they have to travel from mainland to Island provinces.

It was after two years when she decided to pursue her studies through the Alternative Learning System (ALS).

Anisa got a degree of Bachelor of Science in Commerce major in Management in Shariff Kabunsuan College (SKC) in Cotabato City. Away from family in DOS, Maguindanao, she lived by a relative in Cotabato City with the hard work of her mother who was solely sustaining her needs as student.

Growing personally and professionally at the BDA, Anisa remains loyal to the agency whose marking its nineteen years of service this year 2021.

“I stay here at BDA because I consider this as the legacy of the late MILF Chairman. I cannot forget his words saying ‘working at BDA is a form of jihad, help the Bangsamoro, the community in whatever effort you can without expecting salary because jihad has no equivalent benefit in this world’.

With the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Anisa shares the joy for her fellow Bangsamoro for the significant progress in the history of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Of course, I feel happy about the BARMM. For me it is a fruit of peace process, but not of the jihad (struggle). Because the fruit of jihad is only at the hereafter, in heaven”, Anisa stated.

At present, Anisa is working as cashier at the BDA where she helps to the overall financial management of the agency.

She possesses the history of BDA that is relevant as she takes the role of managing the resources of the agency in a transparent, flexible and policy- driven manner.

“We say that there is dynamics at the BDA. We came from a revolutionary organization, the MILF, so we tell our partners ever since that there is difference in our context. So, we have to agree on the policies and regulations on the use of funds, not only according the global standards but to consider the local context”, Anisa told.

Over the years, BDA has been determined in developing and strengthening its capacity as an organization looking into various aspects such as project management, administrative and financial management, community organizing and mobilizing, linking and networking, others.

Throughout these efforts, all actions were driven by the core values of the agency guided by the principle of “change must begin with one’s self”.

Anisa is gratified by the accomplishments of BDA knowing its humble and peculiar beginning as an organization.

“Yes, I am happy because BDA was able to excel and did not fall down”, she told.

Looking ahead, she hopes that BDA can sustain its best practice on equipping its staff to become more dedicated through the VTT and study circles.

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.”

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