The country continues to face considerable challenges in bringing peace and stability to Muslim Mindanao. The region's internal conflicts are rooted in sectarian strife as well as clashes with separatist groups, and to date, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have yet to forge a peace agreement. Within local communities, broader peace and order concerns are exacerbated by widespread crime and local disputes over access to natural resources. Tensions between civilians and the uniformed services remain high, and there is a broad public perception that government lacks oversight of law enforcement. These issues undermine democratic governance and peace efforts initiated in the communities.
Participatory Dialogue on Political Reforms
Since August 2006 NDI has implemented a program to promote informed and participatory dialogue on political reforms and proposed constitutional change. The Institute works with civil society partners to organize public forums covering key reform issues, and ensures that the forum is conducted in a balanced and moderated format. The program also sought to support independent media networks to monitor processes related to these reforms.
In advance of the NDI October 2007 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections, NDI conducted a program to promote informed discussion at the grassroots level – in strategic provinces outside of the capital. NDI facilitated discussions among parties and civil society on critical political reform issues in central and southern Luzon, areas that represent nearly 20 percent of the electorate, as well as Visayas and Mindanao. These discussions were organized by university groups and youth coalitions interested in political reform. Since the October elections, the youth network has worked to engage newly elected representatives in discussions to follow-up on and advocate for promises made during the campaign.
Women’s Participation in Local Elections in Muslim Mindanao
Building on NDI’s past programs to enhance women’s political participation in the Philippines, NDI is working to enhance the capacity of women candidates and leaders in advance of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM or Mindanao) regional elections in August 2008. Specifically, NDI seeks to facilitate the development of a women’s advocacy agenda for increasing women’s political participation, improve the responsiveness of local government to women’s concerns, and enhance the capacity of the Political Caucus of Women’s Leaders in Mindanao (PCWLM).
In 2007, NDI conducted a six-month program to help women candidates running for the first time prepare for the October 2007 barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council) elections. NDI’s program combined leadership and campaign skills training with instruction on electoral rules and procedures. Training was provided to 135 women in the mainland and island provinces of Muslim Mindanao. Youth leaders were also trained to organize citizen efforts that promoted informed decision making during the elections by engaging candidates in public forums and linking the outcome of the elections to the well-being of the citizens.
This program built on a regional program on Strengthening Women Leaders in Southeast Asia which trained twenty women trainers from the Muslim region on various political and campaigning skills. In turn, these core trainers trained 1,475 women locally. The core trainers also organized the Political Caucus of Women Leaders in Mindanao.
In October 2003, NDI initiated a program to help promote democratic governance and enhance community-police relations in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Institute worked with ARMM municipalities to increase local capacity in addressing community safety problems in the municipalities of North Upi, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, Barira, and Guindulungan involving over 100 barangays.
NDI worked with civilian administrators and officials at the local level to develop replicable community policing models. NDI guided the formation of local citizen-police working groups on education initiatives and capacity-building trainings to help communities and police address local peace and order problems. The Institute, collaborated with national and regional offices of the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to help replicate community policing practices in ARMM, increase public access to information on key policies related to civilian oversight of law enforcement and improve the administration of peace and order mechanisms. This work involved developing and strengthening links between grassroots organizations and policy-making bodies at the regional and local levels on issues of peace and order, conflict resolution, and crime prevention.
NDI's programs in the Philippines have been funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).