Late DPWH Director Ibrahim and “moral leadership’


Ali G. Macabalang

The “Moral Governance” (MG) that the Bangsamoro government is espousing to achieve has faced skepticisms from the people including Moro professionals either residing in the region or concerned with the evolution of new autonomy.  

Critics have painted the regional MG slogan with a dismal prospect for realization if not next to impossible. I argue that skepticism or pessimism is affront to a Persian adage: “He who does not hope to win has already lost.”   

Moral leadership in contemporary life is not a far-fetched dream because the late Hadji Mastor Ibrahim, who served as regional director for over a decade of the graft-laden Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), had successfully lived by and exemplified it.

Fact 1: In the advent of the Marcos Martial Law regime, a Moro politician known for unprecedented influence to the deposed “dictator,” went to the office of then DPWH (MPWH) Secretary (Minister) Jesus Hipolito and asked for the replacement of Ibrahim by another Moro engineer allied with him.

Hipolito rejected the request, telling the politico that “Ibrahim is the most honest regional director his ministry has.” The influential politico, obviously not used to rejection of his requests, smashed the minister’s glass table with a clenched fist. The politico went to Marcos and mentioned his experience with Hipolito. The late President reportedly also told his influential leader in Mindanao: “Request something else.”

Hence, the late Ibrahim continued to serve as regional director until his retirement, without having a personal car with a simple house he built for his family constructed out of bank loan plus personal incomes.

Fact 2: One day Ibrahim left his sick wife at a hospital in Manila and went home to Mindanao to seek loan to pay the bills of his spouse. When he returned to hospital, the billing section told him the bills were already settled by somebody he later recognized a contractor. He asked the contract: “Retrieve your money if you want to maintain a link with my office.” With his order heeded by the donor-contractor, Ibrahim paid the bills out of his fresh bank loan.

Fact 3: My late wife was sick at home and a friend doctor prescribed medicines worth P800. I went to Director Ibrahim and confided my dilemma of incapacity to buy the medicine. He pulled out his wallet and picked one of three 50-peso bills and gave it to me, saying: “Orak (little brother), please accept this (P50) as ikhlas aid from available money earned honestly.” But he advised me to drop by at the offices of his two assistant regional directors for possible help. I did as instructed and the two ARDs gave me P1,000 cash each.

Fact 4: A son of Ibrahim had a conversation on recess time with two classmates, who happened to be children of district engineers under the honest director. The two classmates asked Ibrahim’s son: “Why do come to school alone with a car transporting you…when your daddy is the boss of our fathers?” When the son confronted his son, Ibrahim could just say: “Your daddy is living by amanah (honesty) ordained by Allah (God) for all mankind.”

In a nutshell, it is not true that “moral leadership” cannot happen nowadays. The real problem is many public officials do not live by the commandments of God.

‘Moral Governance’ definition

Dr. Anshari P. Ali, current chancellor of the Mindanao State University-General Santos City (MSU-GSC) campus, who also looks up to the late Engineer Ibrahim as an icon of morality in public service, defined “moral leadership” in a statement sent to this columnist.

“Theologically speaking, moral governance is founded on the concept of Khilafah (vicegerency) as stated in a verse in the Qur’an verse, in which Allah says: Inni jailun fil ardhi khalifa (verily I will make a representative to the Earth,” said Ali, who holds a doctorate in Islamic Civilization at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), International Islamic University in Malaysia and master’s degree from UP-Diliman. 

“While God is the King of the Universe, the soul is deemed as king over human-body representing God. Being God’s vicegerent, the main task of the soul-king is to enforce God’s commandment over its human-body first, prior to ruling the affairs of the society,” he said.  

“The first trial for moral governance of the soul-king is one’s leadership over his human body. If he failed to govern himself, he is expected to fail in governing other persons or reforming the affairs of his domain. In the human body kingdom lie entities called five external senses and five internal senses,” he explained.

He said the five external senses include the power of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touch-feeling, while the internal senses are the faculties of common sense, power of thought, power of imagination, power of memory and power of judgment.

The internal and external senses often translate to like and dislike, which usually evolve to desire leading to greed and disgust leading to hatred, respectively, when the beholders failed to moderate them, Ali said.

Desire and anger lie in the heart of every person. The heart is the temple of goodness and badness, which reflect godliness and impiety (evil), respectively. God sent down guidance to mankind through His prophets/ messengers to profess and exemplify His commandments towards piety, he said.

As a trial for human piety (submission to God), Satan has been allowed to mislead mankind towards the opposite (impiety), tempting people to the glitters of worldly comforts, and swaying them to develop desires into greed and dislikes to hatred. Greed manifests in profuse desire for something exceeding one’s needs, while hatred is revealed in one’s excessive dislike of people, things and affairs in his environment, Dr. Ali hinted.

He said this theory is interpreted in a Hadith, which says that when the heart is contaminated by greed and hatred, the beholder destroys himself, his household, other people around him, and later the society.

God revealed Suratul Asr (103rd chapter in the Qur’an):“By Al-’Asr (the time).  Verily, man is in [deep] loss, except for those who believe and do good deeds, urge one another to the truth and urge one another to patience,” he said.

This surah opens with admonition to humankind.  Allah (s.w.t.) takes an oath by “time” and declares that humankind is in a state of loss.  Every single human being, man or woman, is in a state of loss except those who strive and do four things; believe, do righteous deeds, and recommend one another to truth, and to sabr (observe patience).

Sabr is one of four principal traits of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) bequeathed to his followers starting from his four caliphs (vicegerents). The three other traits are sukhr (contentment and gratefulness to whatever God provides), fikr (utmost concern for oneself, community and environment), and Zikr (constant remembrance of God). AGM

2 thoughts on “Late DPWH Director Ibrahim and “moral leadership’

  1. May ALLAH grant Late Director Hadji Mastor Ibrahim the highest place in Jannah.. He was indeed an honest man.. I am proud to be his niece and god daughter “inaanak”.


  2. May ALLAH grant Late Director Hadji Mastor Ibrahim the highest place in Jannah.. He was indeed an honest man.. I am proud to be his niece and god daughter “inaanak”.


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