MANILA - Former presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro says it will be a challenge to make the Bangsamoro work because its parts are spread out, and that autonomy should be tried in richer areas first.
"I believe the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is functionally dysfunctional. Why? Because they are geographically separate," the former defense secretary said. "The Sulu, Basilan area is so far away from the Cotabato area, people have to go to Manila first before they go to Cotabato. And they are culturally distinct: Central Mindanao and Tausugs and Yakans. So probably the design could do with a lot of thinking."
Teodoro was responding to a question at a Security Bank event in Makati. He was speaking days after 44 members of the police Special Action Force and a smaller but still undetermined number of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members and civilians were killed in a clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, part of the existing ARMM, which will be replaced by a stronger Bangsamoro according to a peace agreement signed last year.
"We can't tolerate any disruption of peace and order in the area," he said. "If not, it goes to waste once again."
Teodoro said autonomy for some parts of the country would benefit both the national government and those areas.
"We have to transform the government most importantly by decentralisation and devolution," Teodoro said. "The central government cannot continue to act as default, as guardians for the regions, and the central government cannot be a brake on the regions and what they can achieve."
"I think a similar law should be passed first and foremost in regions where they are more capable," according to Teodoro. Autonomy would have a better chance, he said, "in Cebu or Central Luzon where they are more capable, where they have infrastructure, they have sources of revenue, they are capable of managing their affairs better."
"What is important for me in that law is that there is 80-20 sharing of resources from that area," he said. "80 is retained by the region. Can you imagine if that is done in regions that are more robust?"
Teodoro, who placed No. 4 in the 2010 presidential election, said this might allow cities like Davao to build its own commuter rail before it becomes more expensive. He said this might free the national government to help public school teachers improve their skills, or incentivize government employees or invest in their training.
"The lack of human capital motivation in the government is a big problem," he said.
"The national government will never improve if they are too busy dealing with local concerns," Teodoro said. "There is no national prescription for a lot of Philippine problems because simply put, we are an archipelago."