By Ali G. Macabalang
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY
The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) officialdom through the Ministry of Public Works (MPWH) has contracted all local government units (LGUs) in Lanao del Sur to carry out this year some P3.7-billion infrastructure projects expected to bring the province to greater heights.
BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim accompanied by Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo and Public Works Minister Eduard Guerra graced at a posh hotel here on Sunday the grand signing of memorandums of agreement (MoAs) between the two engineering districts in Lanao del Sur and Gov. Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto-Adiong Jr. alongside all mayors of 39 component municipalities and Marawi City.
District Engineers Abolcair Langilao and Maldamin Decampong of the first and second districts, respectively, signed the MOAs for the MPW, assuring full responsibility in the monitoring via physical and modern technology of all stages in the projects’ implementation.
ICM Ibrahim, Minister Sinarimbo and MPW Minister Guerra delivered separate messages to prod the provincial, city and municipal chief executives to fully harness all government projects and supports in narrowing the gap between the ideals of good governance and the realities in their respective localities, in particular, and the region, in general.
From minor to major jihad
Ebrahim explained anew that the decades of Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) did not end with their forging of major peace accords that brought about the regional autonomous government, the latest being the BARMM.
He described the initial successes of the revolutionary fronts as fruits of minor struggle or “jihad asgar,” pointing out that the bigger struggle or “jihad akbar” has just begun with the BARMM governance in replacement of the 29-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) administrations.
He clarified that the government was “not the enemy per se” of the fighters in the armed struggle but the “oppression, injustices and exploitations” against the Bangsamoro.
“It just happened that the government (through its past administrations) acted to be the instrument of oppressive and unjust treatment of the Bangsamoro,” Ebrahim said in mixed Pilipino and local vernaculars.
Ebrahim said the advent of the BARMM governance in 2019 came with a “bigger challenge” for its administrators and workforces initially led by the MILF to face with greater resolve.
“How we can translate into reality our visions for betterment (R.A. 11054 brought about by the MILF peace accords with the government) now requires another jihad,” he said.
“This time, the struggle is of higher degree or major jihad because our enemy now is ourselves,” said Ebrahim, who still heads the MILF as chairman of its central committee.
Islamic values for moral governance
Ebrahim hinted that the acts of pulling the trigger of guns or drawing words as characteristics of minor jihad in fighting adversaries will no longer apply in the major jihad because “our own enemies are ourselves.”
“Jihad akbar” requires utmost self-renewal in mindset and behavior, he added without elaboration.
Asked of a layman’s definition of “jihad akbar,” Dr. Anshari Ali, incumbent chancellor of the Mindanao State University (MSU)-General Santos City (GSC) campus, defined it as a struggle for self-cleansing from whims, greed and egoism, and imbibing moral values in planning and implementing activities that involve people in a community or organization.
The Philippine Muslim Today news chanced upon Ali, a Shariah lawyer with doctorate in Islamic studies, as he and other MSU officials led by University system president Dr. Habib Macaayong were holding board of regents’ meetings at the same hotel-venue of the BARMM event.
Morality vs. legality
In his speech, Ebrahim cited as example his administration’s decision to return to the national coffer some P3-billion fund the current regional bureaucracy has saved from unspent money of the defunct ARMM government in 2020.
“We could have opted to keep for ourselves the money by easily coming up with usual required documentations. It’s easy, I was told, to make things legal. But we deemed such an option as immoral. So, we decided to return the money,” Ebrahim revealed.
Unprecedented infra projects’ awarding
For his part, Minister Sinarimbo said Sunday’s event here was “first” of its kind in the history of regional autonomy as far as the volume or projects and MoAs sealing are concerned.
“This is the first time for the regional government to award all LGUs in one province with big volume of infrastructure projects at one time,” Sinarimbo said, adding that Chief Minister Ebrahim has ordered the conduct of similar event for the four other provinces in BARMM – Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Last March 15, Ministers Guerra and Sinarimbo launched works for concreting of 63-kilometer road networks worth P1.008-billion for the 63 barangays in six towns of North Cotabato that had opted for inclusion in BARMM territory via the Feb. 6, 2019 s plebiscite.
The two regional executives also broke the ground for the construction of two-floor three barangay halls worth P3.6-million in three villages located in Pigcawayan town. The funds for modern barangay halls would come from MILG, Sinarimbo said.
North Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco, who joined Guerra and Sinarimbo in both groundbreaking events, expressed utmost elation over the unprecedented influx of huge road projects in the 63 villages, even as she reiterated her “full endorsement” of the massive call for an extension in the three-year lifespan of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim ruling body of BARMM, that will cease operation after the 2022 elections.
Similar holistic approach
Sunday’s holistic signing MoAs for massive infra projects will be replicated tentatively in Basilan on March 25-28, in Tawi-Tawi on March 30-April 2, and in Sulu on April 3-6, in time with the conduct of trainings on road mapping among engineers and planners of the engineering districts in the island provinces, it was learned. (Read separate story.)
Minister Guerra said the infra projects earmarked for the three island provinces will include road concreting and ports building or expansion as requested earlier by recipient-LGUs. Those awarded on Sunday to Lanao del Sur were also requested by the constituent-LGUs, he added.
At Sunday’s event here, Lanao del Sur Governor Adiong expressed gratitude to Chief Minister Ebrahim, especially Minister Guerra for making the LGUs as “direct players” in the planning and implementation of vital infra projects – an arrangement allowed under the Local Government Code but never done in the history of regional autonomy.
Gov. Adiong said such a record-setting approach will prevent duplication of infrastructure projects in constituent LGUs as experienced in the past for projects funded by the national government, members of Congress and the regional government.
“Duplicity (in projects) had proven not only as a source of jurisdictional conflicts but also a factor for corruption,” said the governor, who is a civil engineer by profession.
Simplified responsibility scope
Gov. Adiong said the BARMM government’s innovative approach of allowing LGUs to carry out their own vital infra projects would limit the scope of determining responsibility in the success or failure of undertakings.
“Funding institutions like the BARMM government can now single out a project-recipient LGU in case of a failure in the implementation process. They no longer need to run after contractors, not the LGUs this time,” he said.
Increased preliminary funding
Since the LGUs have been entrusted in infra projects implementation, Adiong said appealed to the Chief Minister and Minister Guerra to innovate as well the usual practice of releasing just 15 per cent mobilization or preliminary funds by increasing it to 50 per cent.
“This (increased initial funding) will make the difference in capacitating the LGUs in carrying out fully and successfully their respective projects,” Adiong said.
After a brief huddle with CM Ebrahim, Minister Guerra, an architect by profession, responded to Adiong’s request: “We are announcing that we will release forty (40) per cent.”
Sunday’s event here was attended by over 80 regional, provincial and municipal officials including BARMM Deputy Chief Minister Ali Solaiman; lawyer Dimnatang Pansar, incumbent mayor of Butig and president of Lanao del Sur mayors’ league; and MPW Deputy Minister Abdul Maomit Tomawis, who also delivered messages. AGM