Hataman admin saves huge amount from ’13 ARMM budget PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 21 December 2013 11:27

Residents of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao saw this year, for the first time since the entity’s inception in 1990, the accumulation of more than P1 billion worth of savings in the ARMM’s coffer that was so mishandled in decades past.

The cross-section communities also found ironic that the savings were generated by the ARMM’s education, and public works departments, once touted as the region’s most corrupt, and second most corrupt agencies, respectively.

ARMM folks also witnessed this year how the present administration made open to representatives of various civil society organizations and the Fourth Estate the bidding processes for the procurement of equipment and supplies, and service provision contracts amounting more than P1 billion, in keeping with its transparency policy in handling of peace and development funds.

Residents of ARMM, which covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, have long been callous with graft and corruption in the regional bureaucracy.

Even President Benigno Aquino III had labelled as “failed experiment” the now 23-year ARMM apparently due to its failure to foster peace and sustainable development in its territory, despite the huge grants and infrastructure subsidies the national government had poured into the region.

The ARMM, which originally covered only Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, and Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, was created through a plebiscite in 1990 as an answer to the quest of Southern Moro communities for self-governance under the international right to self determination (RSD) doctrine.

The autonomous region was, subsequently, expanded through another referendum in 2001, which resulted to the amendment of its charter, from Republic Act 6743 to R.A. 9054, and the fusion of Basilan and the cities of Lamitan and Marawi into its territory.

For ARMM officials, it is not too late yet to reform the graft-ridden regional bureaucracy, even if the region now faces possible replacement with a new Bangsamoro political entity if the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front strikes a final peace compact by 2014.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, who first sat as an appointed caretaker of ARMM in December 2011 and got elected as regional governor during the May 2013 synchronized local, regional, and midterm elections, said he is keen on turning over fully implemented projects, fund savings, and all assets of the autonomous region to the government and the MILF peace panels before the 2016 elections.

“Hopefully, by then, we can show to the whole nation and the whole world that the ARMM has done something good for its constituents and that the region could have taken off if only managed properly since its onset more than 20 years ago,” Hataman said.

Hataman said he and members of his regional cabinet are ready to vacate their posts voluntarily if a final GPH-MILF peace accord will requires to enable a smooth transition from the present ARMM to the new Bangsamoro political entity, which is also to be established through a plebiscite in its proposed territory.

Part of the funds saved by the Hataman administration the past 11 months had been spent for the procurement of road-building equipment for the region’s eight district engineering offices.

Just last November, the office of the ARMM’s public works secretary, Hadji Emil Sadain, saved P520,000 more from a stringent public bidding process for P363 million worth of infrastructure projects in Maguindanao and Basilan.

“We are glad with this kind of handling of infrastructure funds by the Hataman administration. There is transparency and accountability,” said Vice-Mayor Roderick Furigay of Lamitan City, the capital of Basilan.

Furigay said only last Wednesday, Hataman and other regional officials awarded 226 students from Lamitan and surrounding Basilan towns with scholarship grants for school year 2014 under the ARMM’s  “Iskolar Para sa Pagbabago” program, also the region’s first.

“More than 20 of the scholars taken in are from Lamitan City. This is something we have not experienced before,” Furigay said.

The ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways, which is being managed jointly by Hataman and Sadain, first generated early this year P136 million from unspent project grants and allocations for maintenance and operating expenses.

Local folks were also virtually fascinated with how the ARMM’s Department of Education saved P900 million worth of unspent operating funds and salaries for its rank-and-file personnel in recent months.

Hataman and his education secretary, Jamar Kulayan, had earlier delisted thousands of ghost teachers from the payrolls of DepEd-ARMM.

The two officials had also suspended the release of operation subsidies to dozens of non-existent schools that were used as “conduits” for anomalous grants by past regional officials.