“We now have an opportunity to build parties at the regional level that can represent the people,” Minority Leader Atty.Laisa Masuhud Alamia reminds women civil society leaders who participated in a training for political party building in Cotabato City on Friday, November 6. With participants from all Bangsamoro provinces, MP Alamia discussed possibilities for women in terms of political participation in the Bangsamoro parliament.

Referring to existing legal documents and legislation, MP Alamia highlighted how the importance of women’s participation in governance is recognized in paper. Realizing these documents in the practice of governance is another thing, however. 

“There are hardly any women leaders present, even in political party building, and this is not unique to the Bangsamoro. All over the Philippines, there are women leaders who are only in politics by virtue of being someone’s wife or sister and are expected to carry the agenda of men,” she said.

However, the parliamentary form of government that is currently in place in the Bangsamoro region “encourages genuinely principled political parties and allows party and sectoral representatives to have more seats in the Parliament,” including women. 

While the national government sets aside 20% of the seats in the House of Representatives for party-list representatives, the Bangsamoro Organic Law secures 60% of seats in the Bangsamoro Parliament for party representatives (50%) and reserved seats and sectoral representatives (10%). This means that there is “an opportunity to build parties at the regional level that can represent the people,” MP Alamia said.

“You can be stronger if you have the numbers as a political party and you are recognized as an organized group pushing for the same reforms that are embodied in legislation related to the BARMM,” she notes, highlighting the need to organize around shared causes and advocacies. MP Alamia has been pushing for legislation that centers on the needs and concerns of women, including those with specific vulnerabilities linked to post-conflict contexts. She has also drafted legislation that aims to consolidate and amplify women’s voices in the halls of parliament through a women’s caucus, which can also bridge parliament to civil society organizations that work on women’s causes.

“Kailangan kayo. You need to be vigilant,” MP Alamia tells the women leaders. In the Bangsamoro, the minority currently engages the parliaments in debate and discussion where the “purpose of the debate is to resolve issues” and push the parliament forward.

Alamia acknowledged how a “very robust civil society” helps in pushing for genuine representation for the people in the Bangsamoro parliament, but noted how the period of transition also presents the perfect opportunity to build political parties that can take part in the legislative process. This means having the opportunity to secure funds and resources needed to institutionalize programs and policies in the regional government, she reminded the training participants.

This training was made possible through the efforts of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, with the support of the UK Government and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.