Year 2014 could be ARMM’s ‘last’ PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 03 January 2015 14:50

Year 2014 could be the last for the 25-year Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) if Congress enacts into law within 2015 the enabling measure for its deactivation to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity.

The ARMM, which operates under a charter, the Republic Act 9054, was created 25 years ago, during the time of President Corazon Aquino, through a referendum in predominantly southern Muslim areas.

What is saddening for thousands of employees of ARMM agencies is that the region’s replacement with a Bangsamoro entity will come after the regional government’s having risen from what is for them a cesspool of corruption, as a result of the reforms and stringent handling of its coffers in the past three years by the present administration.

“Even then, it’s the peace process that we value most and it is something that we need to support. Sometimes we need to do sacrifices for peace to reign among us,” said Amir Mawalil, ARMM’s information director.

Mawalil said the ARMM’s chief executive, Mujiv Hataman, is so ready to facilitate the gradual turnover of the regional government to a special body, comprised of representatives from Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as part of the transition process as initial stride in the putting up of the MILF-led Bangsamoro government.

Vice-Mayor Roderick Furigay of Lamitan City, capital of Basilan province, said it was only in the past three years that the ARMM, touted as hotbed of corruption in the past, performed well in terms of delivery of government services to far-flung communities and in implementing very costly infrastructure projects benefiting local folks.

“We will have very fond memories of the ARMM. The best years for this regional government were from 2012 to 2014,” Furigay said.

It was only during the time of Hataman, who first assumed as appointed caretaker of ARMM in December 2011 and was, subsequently, elected as the region’s eighth regional governor in May 2013, that officials had become so vocal about their support to Malacañang’s peace overture with the MILF.

Hataman and his subordinate-officials have also been always reassuring of their readiness to vacate their posts once the region is replaced with a new, more politically and administratively empowered political entity the rebel group is to govern.

Insiders, mostly career service regional employees, said mismanagement of ARMM was at its worst when Nur Misuari, Parouk Hussin, and Zaldy Ampatuan were at the helm of the regional government as third, fourth and fifth regional governors, respectively.

It was during their time when provincial and municipal officials had wanted their local government units reverted to the administrative regions where they belonged prior to the ARMM’s establishment in 1989 due to political and administrative differences with the region’s leadership.

President Benigno Aquino III, no less, had branded the ARMM, her matriarch’s brainchild, a “failed experiment.”

“But from 2012 to December of 2014 we have seen how the failed experiment became functional. That implies that if all past ARMM governors had only worked religiously, the region must be at par now with other more progressive regions in other parts of Mindanao,” said an Indian businessman in Cotabato City, who asked not to be identified for his not being a Filipino citizen.

The source, who has been operating a merchandising business in Mindanao since the 1970s, said what the President has labeled as “failed experiment” could have long been “a good, feasible experiment” if managed properly since its inception 25 years ago.

So unique is the ARMM that it has an executive department, under the Office of the Regional Governor, and a 24-seat Regional Assembly, touted as “Little Congress” of the region.

“The upcoming Bangsamoro government will be more unique and viable. It will have much better political and administration functions that can efficiently respond to the needs of the very people it is to serve,” said the MILF’s Muhaquer Iqbal, chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

Iqbal, as chairman of the MILF’s peace panel, was instrumental in the crafting of the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), the rebel group’s final peace compact with government.

Iqbal said the CAB is a product of the MILF’s almost two decades of peace talks with government, stalled repeatedly by misunderstandings and odds that were met along the way.

The CAB is the basis for the ARMM’s replacement, via a legislative initiative, with an MILF-led Bangsamoro government.