Bob Tugung’s death 25 years ago to be commemorated PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 17:42

It was in the evening of November 22, 1986 when the highest government official of Western Mindanao, Regional Autonomous Government-9 chairman Ulbert Ulama Tugung was killed by assassins as he emerged from a hotel in Manila. 

His family, friends and colleagues will mark the 25th anniversary of his tragic and untimely death with commemorative and testimonial programs in Isabela City on November 22 and Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) on November 23. 

During the WMSU program, his full-fledge book biography written by Noralyn Mustafa will be launched. The activities are being spearheaded by the Ulbert Ulama Tugung Peace and Development Foundation, Inc., which his surviving family formed soon after his death.

As autonomous government chief, the late Tugung was concurrent regent of WMSU.  The university established the Ulbert Ulama Tugung Institute for Islamic Studies after his death as a tribute to him.

The commemorative activities will fittingly pay tribute to a man who was a very popular and charismatic political leader. Many continue to revere his memory for the many good things he accomplished during his career.

Bob Tugung was only 47 years old at the time he was assassinated in 1986.  He was appointed as the first chairman of the Regional Executive Council (Lupong Tagapagapaganap ng Pook) 1979.  The council was the executive body of the Regional Autonomous Government that was established by the national administration in compliance of the Tripoli Agreement, an accord which it entered into with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari in 1976.  The regional government was the precursor of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

After the EDSA Revolution, President Cory Aquino re-appointed Bob as chairman of the autonomous government in July 1986, but only four months later suspected political rivals had him killed as he was leaving Hotel Aurelio in Manila.  A week after his assassination, Aquino appointed his widow Elnorita to the same position as autonomous government chairman.  Elnorita won a seat as congresswoman of Basilan in 1992.

Prayers will be said over his tomb in Isabela City in the morning of November 22.  This will be followed by a testimonial program at the Bishop Jose Ma. Querexeta Formation Program.

During the WMSU program next day, November 23, Ms. Tugung will sign a memorandum of agreement with the University for a lecture series on Mindanao autonomy sponsored by the foundation, plus the book and foundation website launching.   An area in the university library that has been reserved in Bob’s memory for the Islamic institute named after him will also be re-dedicated during the same occasion.

Bob was a Sama native of Tawi-Tawi province who launched his political career in Basilan when he established residence there after marrying Elnorita Pamaran of Lamitan town.  He was an elected municipal councilor and later appointed as deputy governor and OIC mayor there; then, later still elected as regional assemblyman and then appointed as autonomous government chairman – all within a span of less than 20 years.

As autonomous government chairman, he caused the construction of the Astanah Kasangyangan (Palace of Peace), the white structure that to this day prominently stands on a hill of Cabatangan overlooking Zamboanga City.

He was rare dynamic leader, a true public servant and a very eloquent public speaker, recalls his son Joey in a recent interview.  Three of his four children now reside in the United States.

The senior citizens association will also confer on Bob Tugung a posthumous award during the testimonial program in Isabela.  He was always there ready to help the senior citizens and all the rest of us in Isabela, recalls Dr. Agnes Yu, current president of the association.