Stormy stride for ‘moral governance’


Ali G. Macabalang

Each time Bangsamoro Chief Minister “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim or his cabinet members uttered words about their stride for “moral governance” as a guiding principle in building genuine bureaucracy that right-minded Muslim, Christian and Lumad people dreamed for decades in their communities in the autonomous region, critics and skeptics – for reasons likely laced with contrasting interests – always squawked in reactions.

Dissenters seemingly disregard a popular Persian saying that “he who does not hope to win (a struggle) has already lost.” Pessimism erodes every good chance for betterment in any social setting. Yet, some still live by it, criticizing all new ideas in a fashion shaping an issue without giving alternative solutions.   

Criticism is ideal in public governance, especially when done with proposed solutions. not for mere grandstanding.  

When President Duterte inaugurated the operations of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim governance on March 29, 2019, we may have noticed some gray areas, such as in the choice of appointees. But I told myself and announced in Facebook posts that I would observe a “honeymoon” for two to three years before making “productive” critical stories.

I said “productive” criticisms because in my eight-year stint in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and 26-year in the Manila Bulletin, many of my critical stories had either led to the indictment and conviction or removal from office of key public officials involved in irregularities I exposed. Others led to dismissal (or at least reassignment) of erring personalities.

The MILF-led interim government cannot be expected to deliver what is expected or mandated of it in just over a year of infancy, which unfortunately has been stunted by Coronavirus pandemic adversities as willed by God (Qadrullah). BARMM’s reign actually began in July 2019 with its initial bureaucracy until COVID-19 came in late February 2020.

The infant entity cannot produce major achievements in eight months especially amid setbacks ranging from sporadic human-induced ills (profuse political bickering, clannish feuds and corruption to frequent flooding and COVID-19.

Because of government-sanctioned diversion of attention to fighting COVID adversities, parliament members have faced stringent schedules in legislating fundamental laws, even as many if not all of them engaged in dispersing relief services and goods to their respective constituents long suffering from perceived state neglect. All BARMM ministries and bureaus have equally given focal attention to relieving constituents.

But BARMM’s quality and quantity of relief goods and health/medical assistance are far better than those given in communities elsewhere. I reside in Kidapawan City and have known the difference. Our LGUs provide maximum or three to five kilos of less quality rice and canned sardines of corresponding amount. BARMM provides an average of 12 kilos of high quality rice with equal quantities of canned goods alongside bath soaps.

I know this fact because upon my request, the Chief Minister’s Office through the MILG’s READI program has given my village (not part of BARMM) relief goods twice amid COVID-19 and once after earthquakes hit North Cotabato and Davao Sur in 2019. READI relief goods for earthquake-affected residents even included water containers (amid interrupted water supply) and tarpaulin for temporary shelters. Our LGUs did not give such extra stuff.


Nepotism is one pervasive ill in governance. And in pursuit of its “moral governance” drive, the BARMM leadership has removed two cabinet members so far for employing immediate kin. It did not herald the sanction so as not to embarrass the two personalities in public. But I know basic facts about the punitive sanction. The regional hierarchy admitted suffering pains in removing original MILF supporters as part of ibadah (faithful act) in ideal worldly life.

Dismantling irregular practices embedded in government machineries is one of major challenges facing the infant governmentin bidding to end decades of armed conflict called the “Mindanao problem” that left not less than 120,000 people killed, multitude of families displaced and huge socio-economic opportunities wasted.

Transcending from the presidential system to parliamentary governance is surely painstaking, especially for MILF people still learning the rudiments of bureaucracy after decades of combative life. Why can’t we give them a chance to prove their worth in peaceful undertakings?

Talking of nepotism, I learned that after the BARMM infant bureaucracy had started exemplifying the corresponding punitive sanction, regional authorities were reported girding to look into appointments in public institutions within the autonomous region including the Mindanao State University (MSU) system covering a main campus and seven major field units.

This column will keep track of the BARMM administration-inspired thrust. Let’s keep watching!

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