Empowering the Muslims, under the Duterte Government

The Outside View

By Judge Bing Mimbisa (Ret.)

Now, it can be told, as President Rodrigo Roa Duterte prepares to drop the curtains for the impending end of his illustrious term as the country’s 16th President, that he has given the Muslims their fair share of governance more than any of the previous Presidents that we have had. While the expectations were indeed high, as he enters office in 2016 that the Muslims, whom the president holds in deep affection, given his Muslim heritage, will be considered for one or two government positions as it had been of sort in all past administrations, he surprised them with a plethora of appointments in the highest echelon of the bureaucracy. This action of the President has so endeared to the Muslim-Filipino that if there is one legacy that he  should be remembered for by everyone of us, it will not be on the beautiful and world class roads, bridges and airports that he has constructed under his Build, Build flagship development program or on his unrelenting fight against illegal drugs and corruption in government but, it is his regard and acknowledgement of the skills, competence and brilliance of the Filipino Muslims and in their capability to contribute to national development.

It matters not whether these appointments were issued on account of friendship or in payment of a political debt or gratitude, what is clear is that these appointments were all anchored on the basis of the required qualifications for the positions they were appointed to. And these, they have demonstrated with flying colors when tested under difficult and trying times. And records have shown that all of those appointees have shown impeccable sincerity and dedication to their sworn duty to Public Service.

Of course, these appointments bespeak of the secured and healthy atmosphere and peaceful co-existence amongst the people of this country, however, diverse their culture maybe and whatever their religious differences are. There were neither a ripple or whimper of objection or opposition raised from any quarter or sector of our society. This writer is paying his tribute to the president and all his predecessors for having the audacity and conviction to stand up solid and strong in sustaining the higher principles and ideals of national unity and the brotherhood of Filipinos, no matter how difficult the task maybe. It could be too early to make a conclusion or render judgement that what he stood for are true and indeed to the best interest of the country and the people. Only time can tell. Nonetheless, this writer is doing this while the President is still in office so that he can feel and savor the accolade of a grateful people rather than wait for his stepping down when it matters less or none at all.

Coming to these appointees, let me begin the count with Atty. Guiling A. Mamondiong, a man who rose to prominence by himself starting off as a provincial board member in the province of Lanao del Sur to undersecretary of Transportation and communication under the Arroyo-Macapagal government, He was first appointed by the president as Director General of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA. He then resigned this position to run, but unfortunately, lost for the position of Governor of Lanao Del Sur, However, after completing the one-year ban, for government officials, who sought elective positions, he was installed as Administrator of the Local Utility and Waterworks Authority or LUWA. There are talks that this could just be a smokescreen for another appointment anytime soon.

The second appointee is Lawyer Abdullah D. Mama-o as Presidential Adviser for Overseas Filipino Workers with the rank of Cabinet Secretary under the Office of the President. He was a member of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the defunct Autonomous Government of Region XII and was having a lucrative law practice in the United States when he was invited by the President to join the government. This was followed by the appointment of the late former Ambassador Abulkhayr Alonto as Chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority. Ambassador Alonto was the Vice Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, former Vice Mayor of Marawi City and Speaker of the Regional Legislative Assembly of Region XII. His wife Bae Norhata Macatbar Alonto is now Commissioner of the Philippine Social Security System.  The President later appointed former Lanao del Sur governor and lawyer Saidamen B. Pangarungan as Chairman, with the rank of Cabinet Secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, Of course, the Chairman is assisted by several commissioners who all hold the equivalent rank of undersecretary, and these commissioners are, Dalisay H. Macodawan, Ismael V. Mastura, Samad Pangandaman, Samen M. Allong, Yusoph J. Mando, Datu Ras S. Lidasan, Jr. and Abubakar M. Mangelen.

The President has likewise made two first time appointees, one in the Court of Appeals with the appointment of Honorable Anisah A. Umpa as the first ever lady Muslim to be appointed Justice of that Court and the appointment of Honorable Sheriff M. Abas, as the first Muslim Chairman, which may never be replicated in the future, of the powerful Commission on Elections. In addition to this rooster of appointments are two heads of diplomatic missions as ambassador extra-ordinary and plenipotentiary, namely ambassadors Adnan V. Alonto to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Noroodin Pendosena Lomondot to the State of Kuwait. For the record, the President has also appointed four undersecretaries, one in the Department of Trade and Industry, Usec. Abdulgani Macatoman, one in the Department of Public Works Highways Emil K. Sadain and two in the Department of Agrarian Reform, Atty. Carim Panumpang and Madame Raibani Delangalen. Mention should also be made of Ms. Amerah F. Pangandaman, Assistant Governor in the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas who is concurrently Assistant Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management and Benasing Macarambon, Jr. Board member and Director of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

Even as his appointment was a matter of course, I am including in this long list the Honorable Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim as Chief Minister of the Bangsa Moro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao just for the record and information. Finally, and after more than three (3) decades, the President has appointed only the second Muslim to sit in the highest Court of the land, the Supreme Court of the Philippines, the Honorable Japar B. Dimaampao. Justice Dimaampao was Senior State Prosecutor in the Department of Justice, then Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court and of late, Justice of the Court of Appeals where he served for more than a decade and ultimately to the Supreme Court.  This is a gem of an appointment that the Muslim-Filipinos will treasure to the recesses of antiquity.

I would, however, venture to say and that if there is anyone of our past Presidents who have shown close to, if not equal or similar regard to the Muslim-Filipinos, it should be Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with the appointments of two senior members of the cabinet namely, Secretary Simeon A. Datumanong in the Department of Public Works Highways and later as Secretary of Justice and Secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman in the Department of Agrarian Reform. She had also appointed one undersecretary in the Department of Justice, former Congressman Macabangkit Lanto. Of course, most of us know that President Arroyo spent part of her childhood in Iligan City where the family of her mother are partly rooted.

If the President has other surprise to give the Filipino-Muslims, we can never tell and, therefore, it will not be amiss to expect that something may still be in the going, even in the short period of time left for this administration.

To all the readers of this newspaper, assalamu alaikum and by the grace of God Almighty, I will see you again.

Did I miss anyone? Please write the Philippine Muslim Today.

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