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Reforming the ARMM?


His Excellency. President Benigno C. Aquino III is now deemed best in understanding the

problems plaguing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by virtue of the decision of Congress to postpone the ARMM election and afford him the right to appoint the ARMM officials capable of helping him change the political landscape of the region. The President knows that the Philippine Government has appropriated billions of pesos for the ARMM and more billions were granted the same by some foreign governments hut on account of subtle graft and corruption there is no way of telling now where the funds went except in the case of the Ampatuans being investigated and tried now.

Now the President is seemingly hard put on who among the Moro Leaders can help him reform

the ARMM. Those recommended to him for appointment to any positions in the ARMM are deemed notorious for non-achievement, if not graft and corruption or other anomalies they were said to have committed against the Filipino people. At any rate, President Aquino is apparently trying hard to look for the leaders who could run the affairs of the ARMM on the basis of the principles of transparency and accountability along Matuwid na Daan principle of governance based on the fundamental laws of the land. But the Moros are seemingly unconcerned or shy on publicly talking on who the President should appoint to the position of OIC Governor of the ARMM except some brave souls such as Alling Estino, Abu Ambri Taddik and Sansibar Hadjulam, I met at the coffee shop in Manila, who said in the presence of Maranao and Maguindanao friends that it is well for President Aquino to appoint Sulu Governor Sakur Tan to the position of OIC Governor of the ARMM on account of his awareness of the policy, programs and protects of the government, including the Ravanihan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the American Balikatan and never was he found reluctant in cooperating with the government in the implementation of the same. This is the reason why the great majority of the farmers, fishermen and traders and other sectors of society such as the Ulema and other religious leaders, the teachers and the professionals aside from the masses have found him preferable to other leaders. On account of his concern for peace he also acquired the respect of political moguls such as Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali and Sulu Congressman Tupay T. Loong aside from leader friends in Basilan, Lanao Sur and Maguindanao. And true. he has been responsible in settling several feudal disputes even in cooperation with lay leaders or AFT which is a prima facie evidence of his concern for justice, peace and development in his areas of responsibility.

The President has already declared the policy of giving justice, peace and development to all the Filipinos, of course, including the Moros who arc citizens of the Philippines on the basis of constitutional definition. In any case. the President expects all government officials and employees, including that of the ARMM, to perform their duties on the basis of the principles of transparency and accountability in order to stop graft and corruption and achieve the objectives for which the government was established. Of course, the people arc duty-bound to change the government in case its officials arc found guilty of corrupt practices as it happened during the time of the late President Marcos in the Philippines and now in Egypt as seen in the ouster of Hosni Muharak or ouster of Jainal Abibin in Tunisia.

We do not desire anything of that sort to happen again in the Philippines. War is awesome in terms of loss of lives and damages to properties. We are aware of what havoc the First and Second World Wars or even the Korean and Vietnam Wars wreaked upon our people and world Civilization. Now, do we know how many lives lost and properties destroyed as a result of the war started by the MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in 1972 when the late President Marcos declared Martial Law and started disarming the Moros in Muslim Mindanao and Sulu.

In in his speech in Senegal twenty years ago, Mr. Misuari said that two hundred thousand Moros were already killed as a result of the war foisted upon the Moros by Marcos to justify his intention to postpone the presidential election due in 1973 and become a dictator thereafter. In his book entitled "The Moro Armed Struggle in the Philippines",  Dr. Macapado Abaton Muslim quoted Marcos for saying that ten to eleven thousand Philippine soldiers were already killed during the first eight years of the MNLF war of liberation. The United Nations reports had it that half a million Moros were already in Sabah as refugees in 1978. There was no report on how many got wounded and crippled, widowed and orphaned, or raped and abused during the war. There was also no report on persons internally displaced but they were estimated to number millions in Mindanao and its island province. There was also no report on  government war expenses but one overheard conversation of the late Admiral Romulo M. Expaldon revealed that there was a time when the Philippine government spent one billion pesos just for a day military operation in Mindanao and Sulu War is, indeed, awesome!

In 1996 the MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari then a U.N. Peace Awardee together with former President Fidel V. Ramos, said that war is ended and peace is come to the alacrity of the audience in Malabang, Lanao Sur, if I remember right. But he now keeps saying that peace has remained elusive despite the peace negotiations for decades even with the assistance of the OIC and the Bishop Ulema  Conference of the Philippines. Now he has been reported saying in many occasions that the Moros deserve a genuine peace and not peace of the jungle teeming with serpents, lions and crocodiles, or that of the graveyard. Sometimes he said that peace has not been achieved on account of the obstruction of the "Unseen Hands”. Who they arc, he did not tell. Many Moros arc getting the more confused on what is happening in the ARMM because many facts ought to be revealed arc withheld for reasons we do not know other than fear or love for complexities and equivocation. At any rate, what good promises Brother Nur failed to fulfill in our favor, we hope President Aquino will succeed in appointing an OIC Governor of the ARMM a man like Sulu Governor Sakur Tan, who is knowledgeable of the history of the Filipinos and the Moros, honest and courageous and capable of helping the President change the political landscape of the region inspite of the presence of the Private Armies and Armed Groups here. A question at this juncture may be raised: who,  if not Governor Tan  May he any of the following will do for some reasons: Hadji Mohammad Benjamin Dolorfino, Sulu Vice-Governor Ben T. Loong, Nur Misuari Al-haj. Mr. Nabil Tan, and Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco.

Now we pray and hope that President Aquino III will succeed in ending this war in Mindanao and its island provinces and able to fulfill, his promise of giving justice, peace and development to all for the sake of the solidarity of the Filipino people and better civilization. #30.

By Prof. Abubakar B. Mohammad

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