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March 20, 2022. Improved road access, the chance to meet together despite the distance and pandemic and more of these stories manifest the significant progress and transformation happening in the camp communities once marginalized from development.

During the recent gathering of community volunteers and the transitioning combatants from the different villages covered under the six major camps of the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) on March 14-15, 2022 at Cotabato City, shared their narratives and experiences in relation to the on-going transformation in the camps.

“Before, the road going to Brgy. Tamparan in Munai, Lanao del Norte (Camp Bilal) was difficult and risky. Now, we are happy that there is a better road to reach the village, far from its condition, years ago”, Joint Task Force on Camps Transformation (JTFCT) Camp Bilal said.

Co-chairman of the JTFCT Camp Badre expressed that “Simple meeting like this activity is already significant for us. We are all comrades in this struggle, all worked as combatants but it was very rare that we meet because we are coming from different camps. But this project gathered us”.

This said gathering happened during the Project End Review and Reflection Session conducted in line with completion of the Camps of Learning Project (CLP)- a project that aims to promote inclusive peace through literacy in the Bangsamoro.

In the event, BDA together with partner and the participants reviewed the project implementation and drew lessons learned that shall be relevant to consider in the future. This was guided by the project development objectives, project steps, and was through a reflection session wherein the body identified what went well, and the areas that need be improved.

Took off in April 2021, CLP has touched the lives of many in the camps. The building of community learning centers equipped with complete facilities provided a permanent and convenient learning place for the learners who, before the project, have to run into any available facility in their village just to join the classes on Alternative Learning System (ALS).  

Attending and completing the ALS sessions helped promote peace with the beneficiaries feeling the empowerment and self- growth as they learn basic literacy such as writing their names by their own, counting numbers, reading and writing few basic words.

Learner from Camp Abubakar is confident that by the coming national and local election in the country, people can read their names from the voters’ list as they can now write to cast their votes.

From Camp Badre, the learner is grateful that even without a degree, the project brought them education and made them experienced studying and learning at school through the ALS.

As the project also carried skills training for the beneficiaries, people in Camp Bilal are thankful that aside from basic literacy, they also learned additional knowledge and skills that is helpful to augment their daily income.

For the people in Camp Rajamuda, the learning they acquired from the project will never be forgotten.

Camp Omar is likewise in gratitude for the project that served as bridge for the people to learn.

Learner in Camp Bushra is happy that the literacy sessions are completed.

CLP is formally closing this March 2022 leaving fully equipped learning centers across the six major camps of the MILF. The project hopes that the facility shall be used in the future in bringing literacy, empowerment and development in the lives of the people in the camps, long been deprived of such services due to the war in the past.

There were 480 learners who successfully completed the ALS and are now confident having the ability to read, write and count.

The implementation of ALS in camp communities was guided by the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signed with the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE- BARMM) for areas under the Bangsamoro Region. Communities outside the region like Brgy. Inug-ug in Pikit is coordinated with the Department of Education- North Cotabato Division (Region XII) and Lanao del Norte Division (Region IX) for Brgy. Tamparan in Munai. 

Further, the project was in support to the Normalization Annex of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

CLP is funded by 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.

February 2, 2022. In the remote communities in Mindanao, particularly Bangsamoro Region, access to basic services like education and health remains deprived, although with significant improvement considering the continuing development assistance from various donor organizations. This has become more apparent now with the Bangsamoro Government now established anticipated to be responsive to the needs of the people in the region, long been wedged by decades of armed conflict.

On education, (as per the results of its Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in 2019), that by region, Metro Manila posted the highest functional literacy rate of 96.5%, while the lowest was recorded in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) with 71.6%.

Of this number Sally Bandara, 30, a Teduray from Brgy. Datalpandan, Guindulungan in Maguindanao (within MILF Camp Badre) can be counted among the illiterate groups.

Teduray is among the tribes identified as indigenous people.

Sally says that because of distance and access, being in the mountains, they did not get education.

“Our ancestors were illiterate, because of that, our parents did not allow us to study”, Sally stated.

With the construction of community learning center in their village in Brgy. Datalpandan, Guindulungan in Maguindanao (within MILF Camp Badre), and the implementation of Alternative Learning System (ALS), Sally feels positive about getting education.

“Back then, we used to run from the school because of ignorance, but now, it is the school that comes to us. You have given us this CLC with teachers who are walking on different roads just to reach us for education”, she expressed.

Sally is very happy that she is now learning to write her own name, that she will no longer rely on thumbmark to affix her signature.

Education was also impossible for a combatant like Taha Gawang, 51, Maguindanaon, who is residing from the same village of Sally.

He said “it is due to poverty and war in the past that I did not get education”.

Now, through the ALS, Taha can write his own name and is happy that recently, he was able to write his name when he registered to receive money from a relative abroad, unlike before where he can only do thumbmark.

“Staff from the remittance center was also surprised when they saw me writing my name”, Taha happily shared.

Adullah H.Esmail, the instructional manager, said that Taha is among the transitioning combatants of the MILF, and does farming to sustain his family of eight.

This particular implementation of ALS in camp communities is under the Camps of Learning Project (CLP) that aims to promote peace and inclusion through basic literacy in the Bangsamoro. The project is funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (#AECID).

Baidido Malignan, 45, a Maguindanaon is also an ALS learner registered under the project. She is enrolled at the CLC in Camp Omar, specifically in Brgy. Saniag, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Baidido narrated that she was not able to get education because she has to help her father in the farm, where they get a living for their family of five.

“I joined ALS to learn writing and reading”, she said.

According to Datufaizal Macacana, the instructional manager of Baidido, she can now write her name along with other few words. Also, albeit slowly, Baidido can now read.

Baidido is a widow and is selling a pastil (a rice with shredded chicken wrapped in banana leaf) to provide for her children. 

ALS in camp communities is also giving hope to the youth. In Brgy. Tamparan, Munai, Lanao del Norte (belong to MILF Camp Bilal), Abdani Deki and Diya U. Mamaki are both timid during ALS sessions but are appreciative when Aisah Acob, the IM teaches them one-on-one.

Now, they can write their own names and other few words. Aisah reported that the two have significant improvement on penmanship, even better than hers, but remains slow in reading activities. She hopes that by the end of the project, the learners will be able to read sentences.

Under the CLP, there are four hundred eight (480) number of ALS learners across the six major camps of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) where the project is being implemented. 

They are vulnerable sectors in the community like women, out-of-school youth, elderlies, indigenous people and others who were not able to get formal education due to poverty, difficult access and armed conflict in the past years.

It is noted that the implementation of ALS in camp communities is well- coordinated with the BARMM’s Education Ministry for the areas under the Bangsamoro Region. Communities outside the region like Brgy. Inug-ug in Pikit is coordinated with the Department of Education- North Cotabato Division (Region XII) and Lanao del Norte Division (Region IX) for Brgy. Tamparan in Munai. 

With the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.) as the Project Implementing Unit (PIU), the project is funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

November 5, 2021. Datufaizal Macacana 36, (2nd photo below), travels from Poblacion, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao to Brgy. Saniag, Ampatuan in the same province from Monday to Thursday to fulfill his responsibility as Instructional Manager (IM) to the learners of the Alternative Learning System (ALS)- a component of the Camps of Learning Project that promotes literacy in communities within the six major camps of the MILF acknowledged in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

He started working as an IM for ALS in camp communities, particularly in Camp Omar in year 2019. Faizal understands the complexity of working in remote areas, especially in a camp, known to be a battlefield during the armed- conflicts in the past years. For him, he chose this job in belief that he can help serve those people who did not have education due to war in the past.

Faizal was a 4th year in secondary education when he learned about the conflict in Mindanao, particularly in Bangsamoro where he was born. “My father was often on duty in Camp Abubakar those times, for many months, so I knew and understand the struggle of the Bangsamoro”, he stated.

With his job as IM at present, Faizal feels good for the experience of being able to work with the local government unit (LGU) and the people in community.

He wishes enlightenment for his learners about the importance of education.

“I hope that I can help them be motivated towards education, that poverty is not a hindrance to learn, because at present, there are many opportunities in the Bangsamoro, that can assist people to improve their lives”, Faizal told.

Colleagues of Datufaizal for literacy sessions in Camps Omar are Aisa Mantikayan, Noraina Sambad and Nor-ain Kaliman.

Meanwhile, a colleague of Faizal from Lanao del Norte, named Aisah Acob, 29 also shares story of her work as IM in the remote village within the Camp Bilal, particularly in Brgy. Tamparan, Munai, Lanao del Norte.

For Aisah, what she loves most about her role as IM is being able to be an instrument in providing learning for those people who did not have the chance because of the war, poverty and low access to basic services.

She hopes that by teaching, her learners would learn things that are useful for daily lives.

“I want them not just a reader but a leader in the future. I use the quote “Be a READER today, tomorrow a LEADER”, for them because I have this learner who is a barangay councilor.  She cannot read even simple words and sentences, only understands simple Filipino words. And for that she cannot fully participate in the development of the community because she is not confident and capable enough due to poor literacy”, Aisah stated.

In Camp Bilal, Aisah is joined by Norayah Mananggolo, Ibrahim Dangcogan and Aslimah Maminta.

Amerah Anta, 40, is also an IM working for the ALS learners in Brgy. Inug-ug, Pikit, North Cotabato, a village within the MILF’s Camp Rajamuda.

She shared that facilitating the learning session for the learners in a camp community is not easy. But her years of experience in the job, since 2016, equipped her with more knowledge and determination- moreover, knowing and understanding that this is part of her contribution to the Bangsamoro struggle.

“I wish that they will all complete this program, and whatever they learn from ALS will be significant in their lives”, Amerah expressed.

In Camp Rajamuda, Amera is working with Shaffreah Kuta, Sulaipa Unggui and Layra Mahmod.

Bedorie Panaudan, 34, has been working as an IM in Camp Bushra since 2016. Being an IM, she is very happy for the ability to share knowledge.

“I am happier when I see their eagerness to learn. Through this ALS, I can help in giving hope to the people in camp communities”, she stated.

Bedorie is working with Yasmin Abdulmanan, Mojahid Magazoga and Saniah Oga are facilitating the ALS classes in Camp Bushra.

Another IM, Sabrina Masacal, 25, is facilitating ALS sessions in Camp Abubakar, particularly Brgy. Tabuan, Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur.

She said that she loves doing community services. Sabrina is a social worker and applied for this job knowing that she can help those people who are in remote areas by sharing knowledge.

“I wish that my learners will acquire knowledge that they can use for their selves and have the courage to do what they wanted in life”, Sabrina told.

Sabrina is working with Noraina Mamantek, Analiza Pagayawan and Samera Bagnas. In Camp Abubakar.  

ALS facilitators in Camp Badre namely Abdullah H.Esmail, Kalindato Bato, Zainudin Kusain and Muslimin Abdul have to cross a river to reach their learners in the remote village of Brgy. Datalpandan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao, including the indigenous people community- who are thankful for reaching out to them despite the distance to bring them literacy.

At present, there are four hundred eight (480) number of ALS learners across the six major camps of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) where the CLP is being implemented. 

They are vulnerable sectors in the community like women, out-of-school youth, elderlies, indigenous people and others who were not able to get formal education due to poverty, difficult access and armed conflict in the past years.

It is noted that the implementation of ALS in camp communities is well- coordinated with the BARMM’s Education Ministry for the areas under the Bangsamoro Region. Communities outside the region like Brgy. Inug-ug in Pikit is with the Department of Education- North Cotabato Division (Region XII) and Lanao del Norte Division (Region IX) for Brgy. Tamparan in Munai. 

CLP is a project "Promoting Peace and Inclusion Through Basic Literacy in the Bangsamoro" with the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.) as project implementing unit (PIU). 

The project is funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

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.”

October 22, 2021. Ministries and offices of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) pledged support to the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA Inc.) for the implementation of the Project- Enhancing CSO Capacities for Inclusive Development Interventions in BARMM in Support to Bangsamoro Transition (SUBATRA-ECSO).

Ministries of Health (MOH), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR), Indigenous People’s Affairs (MIPA) and, the Interior and Local Government (MILG) and the offices of Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO) and Bangsamoro Women Commission (BWC) expressed their support during the courtesy meetings organized by the BDA Inc. from October 18-22, 2021 within BARMM Compound in Cotabato City.

This undertaking is part of the initial steps for the implementation of the Project- Enhancing CSO Capacities for Inclusive Development Interventions in BARMM in Support to Bangsamoro Transition (SUBATRA-ECSO). The project, aimed to contribute to a peaceful, cohesive, secure and inclusively developed Bangsamoro is funded by the European Union and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation.