by Ali G. Macabalang
We welcome the entry to The Philippine Muslim Today news’ pool of columnists of Haroun Al-Rashid “Momoy” Alonto-Lucman Jr., whose vast experiences as former DILG chief in Lanao del Sur and vice governor of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be apt to share as guide to the new autonomous entity.
In the opening salvo of his Hammerhead column, Momoy touched issues about the Mindanao State University (MSU) system timely in its 60th foundation anniversary celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
He mentioned squatting as one of major concerns affecting the MSU mother or main campus in Marawi City, my own Alma Mater, even as he called for collective efforts to save the academic institution from human-induced setbacks.
“The squatting in the campus is so terrible (as) the university autonomy is literally compromised,” he said, adding that “the problem has been building up throughout the succession of MSU leaderships.”
As one of the pioneer residents of the campus way back in 1960, I witnessed the gradual increase of public and private buildings from dozens to hundreds in a decade. Mild squatting started from the Martial Law regime, when President Marcos installed his “Mindanao’s strongman” as MSU president in concurrent capacity as governor of Lanao del Sur.
Dimaporo’s relatives and political allies built residential houses and commercial buildings in the campus in a domino-like trend that succeeding campus administrators’ failed to contain from spiking to multitude of private houses.
Officials of the Gloria Macapaga-Arroyo, notably Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales drafted Police General Ricardo de Leon, while he was serving as PNP Deputy Director General for Admin.
News about the Palace officials’ intervention for De Leon prompted me, with constant coordination by key alumni, to write stories in the Manila Bulletin questioning the propriety of his imminent appointment in MSU.
For a balanced media practice, I and my now deceased colleague in Bulletin, Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, met Gen. De Leon at his Crame office and pressed for an explanation about his Palace-backed nomination.
De Leon said his assignment in MSU would be brief just to solve campus problems about squatting, warlords, drug trade infiltration, and security concerns.
His explanation formed part of my continued writing of stories opposed to a police official’s longer leadership in MSU. One day, Secretary Gonzales called me up to say with assurance that De Leon would leave the campus after putting a stop to squatting and other ills they brought to fore.
De Leon’s and Palace officials’ assurances turned out to be lies because after the police general’s stint in MSU, the squatting problem even became like a norm when the warlords that he was supposed to dismantle turned out to be his protectors.
I felt terribly sorry to see a drone-taken aerial image of the MSU main campus’ close to 1,000-hectare brimming with residential houses and private buildings.
In my recent visit to the campus, I saw the lot formerly occupied by a building the state-run DXSO radio station and my office as provincial head of the Office of Media Affairs has been squatted and built with a tall private edifice.
But it appears to me that squatting problem is just a secondary issue nowadays. The MSU main campus brims with qualification-wanting appointed rank and file personnel who dislodged alumni aspirants.
In a recent huddle, an incumbent key official of the MSU system claimed that unless drastic remedies are done, the university campus is like “an airplane poised to nose dive in crash landing.”
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