Ali G. Macabalang
The Filipino Muslim community should really be represented in the national council that will govern the enforcement of the just-enacted Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) as sought by the leadership of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
President Duterte’s designation of a Muslim representative, notably an official of BARMM, in the ATL governing body will make the difference in appeasing apprehensions that the new law might worsen age-old discriminations against the minority sector – something the former Davao City mayor has aptly called “historical injustices.”
The welfare and concerns of the minority community in the national dimension are being addressed by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, but incumbent NCMF Secretary Saidamen B. Pangarungan has expressed support to the BARMM’s call for membership in the ATL governing council.
“You can tell the Chief Minister (Ahod “Al Hadju Murad” Ebrahim) that I am sully supportive of his call,” Pangarungan told this columnist in a telephone call Wednesday night, noting the essence of a Muslim member in the ATL body.
It may be recalled that the BARMM Parliament, through a resolution, had appealed to the President to veto the ATL over growing apprehensions among different sectors that it might stifle the rights of innocent citizens, notably Moro people who have long been easily tagged as “terrorists” by whimsical government elements.
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Moro people’s apprehensions are for real. In past media representations of this columnist, many well-meaning Moro traders in Metro Manila, mostly Maranaws, fell victims to “hulidap” by unscrupulous law enforcers.
The modus operandi usually came in the form of raids, planting of evidence, and declaring arrests on suspicion of target persons’ alleged possession of illegal things to include shabu or unlicensed guns. It was always coupled with arresting officers’ offers to “forget” the arrest if the suspects coughed up bribe money.. Because traders would not want to undergo the rigors of court battle, they readily yielded money.
The evil scheme, if not quelled, will turn rampant in the implementation of the ATL. This is one concern that makes the call for Muslim representation in the national enforcement council more essential.
In the still unresolved issues surrounding the aftermath of the 2017 Marawi siege, then Colonel Brawner, when he was head of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, had confirmed at least one case concerning some soldiers “caught” red handed in “looting” of abandoned residences in the war-torn city. He claimed that the soldiers were subjected to proper administrative sanctions. What about the criminal aspect of the crime? I can only guess.
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Speaking of the NCMF operations, I believe that the present leadership of the commission has been trailblazing in its operations despite limited fiscal appropriations.
In the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sec. Pangarungan alongside his central and regional workforces have proven their worth, tracing the locations of affected Muslim Filipinos across the nation and providing tem relief aids courtesy of donations from concerned sectors.
Sec. Pangarungan said even movie personalities contributed funds for the NCMF to sustain its voluntary provision of relief goods. This is impressive in the face of reality that NCMF has no fund for relief operations.
His stint in the commission has successfully made representations in the freedom of Muslim Filipinos arrested over false suspicions. It popularly reformed the processes of the annual hajj operations. It achieved a lot, something that I can proudly say: “Congrats, Sec. Pangarungan.”
ALI G. MACABALANG