Dr Cheryl Saunders with members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. Image credit: International IDEA.
In partnership with the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Philippines, International IDEA supported a number of events centered on challenges and opportunities presented by the recent promulgation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). This Law protects and embodies the autonomy promised to the Bangsamoro in then Philippines 1987 Constitution and calls for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), including an autonomous government and all associated institutions.
International IDEA supported through the participation of Global Constitution Building Programme’s Senior Technical Advisor, Laureate Professor Emeritus Cheryl Saunders of the Melbourne Law School, as a key resource person, as well as Constitution Building Advisor for Asia and the Pacific, Amanda Cats-Baril, as a resource person and Programme Officer, Nyla Prieto, in support.
Consultation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Study Group on Federalism
The transition to the BOL implies challenges, not only in terms of establishing processes and institutions in BARMM, but also establishing inter-governmental relations between local government units, BARMM and the central government. There is also discussion about how the passage of the BOL might impact the broader debates about potential Charter Change and federalism in the Philippines. On 8 July 2019, a Consultation with the DILG Study Group on Federalism focused on this issue, discussing comparative experience with federalism and the various Charter drafts that are under consideration and revision in the Philippines. The Study Group had a chance to ask Dr Saunders for direct advice on design features of the federal system in the Philippines and to present their progress in revising the draft prepared by the Consultative Committee in 2018.
Learning Session and Workshop on Parliamentary Systems for the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA)
After completing this consultation, Cheryl Saunders, Amanda Cats-Baril and the IAG team traveled to Davao City, the largest city in Mindanao, for a Learning Session and Workshop on Parliamentary Systems with members of the BTA Ad-hoc Committee on Administrative Code. The workshop was organized at direct request of the BTA, since the BOL calls for establishment of a parliamentary government in BARMM despite the Philippines historic choice of presidential government.
The two-day workshop was designed to broaden understanding of relevant international and national systems and practices that can serve as models and lessons. A panel of international experts, led by Cheryl Saunders, helped BTA members enhance their understanding of the breadth and limits of the regional parliamentary system under the BOL, other national laws and the Philippines 1987 constitution by discussing experiences and fundamentals of parliamentary system. The rest of the speakers were BTA members and representatives from the national House of Representatives, as well as Edna Co, Professor of Public Administration at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance.
Composed of 80 members appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, the BTA will serve as the interim government of BARMM until election of the regular ARMM government in 2022. The BOL vests all legislative and executive powers in the BARMM in the BTA for the transitional period and mandates the BTA to enact priority legislation, including the Bangsamoro Administrative Code. The Bangsamoro Administrative Code is a critical piece of legislation as it will define the rules and structures of governance in the BARMM as a regional parliamentary government. Since parliamentary governance has not been practiced in the Philippines or in BARMM previously, members of the Committee responsible for defining the system wished to discuss global and comparative practice around parliamentary rules and procedures with experts.
The Kusog Mindanao conference is an annual event hosted since 1994 on issues of relevance to Mindanao. This year’s theme was Federalism, Bangsamoro, Security and Martial Law. The conference drew more than 100 participants from a variety of sectors including government, civil society, security and religious to dialogue about ensuring the strength of Mindanao. The conference featured four sessions, with the second panel on Federalism and Charter Change featuring both Cheryl Saunders and Amanda Cats-Baril. Undersecretary of DILG, Johnathan Malaya, delivered a keynote address on Federalism as a Mindanao Agenda. Discussions touched on a range of questions included: Is it still possible to revise the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for federalism? Is legislative change focused on strengthening local government and reforming the electoral system sufficient? How does federalism and charter change intersect with security challenges?
As her final engagement, Cheryl Saunders hosted a lecture and Q&A on federalism, charter change and parliamentary systems with professors and students at Ateneo University’s School of Law campus in Davao City.