Mindanao-based journalists have formed the Bangsamoro Press Corps (BPC) to professionalize ranks and provide better reportage of the two-year old new autonomous region, electing a veteran Muslim scribe as their first president.
Veteran journalist Ali G. Macabalang was unopposed in presidential nomination at the BPC organizational meeting attended here on Saturday by more than 60 media workers covering the operations of the two-year old Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
A journalist for over four uninterrupted decades, Macabalang currently serves as news editor of the infant Philippine Muslim Today news, an English tabloid founded by veteran scribes to provide the readers an alternative source of information on issues and concerns affecting Muslim Filipinos.
Macabalang led his fellow elected BPC officers and members in thanking the Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READI), a unit of the autonomous government under the supervision of BARMM spokesman and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, for facilitating the conduct of two meetings that led to the BPC formation.
On different occasions, Macabalang had advocated the need for the formation of a press corps among local media workers to professionalize ranks, promote their economy and security welfare, and at the same time harmonize their efforts in providing comprehensive reportage of the BARMM bureaucracy and parliament.
The BARMM governance has been formally established on March 29, 2019 under R.A. 11054 in pursuit of two major peace accords forged by the government in 2013 and 2014 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), replacing the 29-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
“We see a sort of disparity between the BARMM prospects for the betterment of its constituents and the realities in the ground. This is a challenge for us concerned media practitioners to narrow down the gap,” said Macabalang, who had served as founding executive director of the defunct ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information (1994-1977 & 2010-2012).
“Field journalists also need to fostering stronger bonding to address sad economic of journalism, preserve dignity in media profession, and fight threats against free press,” Macabalang added, hinting at risks in local media that peaked in the infamous Nov. 23, 2009 “Maguindanao massacre” of 57 people, 32 of them journalists.
Maguindanao belongs to the BARMM, so with the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Lamitan and 63 villages in North Cotabato.
On Saturday night, Minister Sinarimbo hosted an iftar (Ramadan dinner) for the newly elected BPC officers and members.
Minister Sinarimbo had once assured that the new autonomous governance will not allow intimidations against media workers covering the region, saying “we will come to the rescue of journalists facing professional threats.”
Other elected BPC offices include four vice presidents –John Unson (print); Erwin Cabilbigan (radio); Benny Queman (TV); Edwin Fernandez (online/multi-media); and Ferdinandh Cabrera (PhotoJournalism); Ella Dayawan, treasurer; Dennis Arco, auditor; Sam Sali and Nhur Gayak, business managers; and Michael Suan, P.R.O. READI’s Valerie Lambo was appointed secretary.
Elected Board of Director are: Bruce Matabalao, chairman (Cotabato City); Nash Maulana (Maguindanao); Ding Yahya (Lanao del Sur); Bert Digamon Jr. (North Cotabato); Fidencio Yu Castro, Jr. (SOCCSKSARGEN); Dhen Kadatuan (Muslim sector); Charlie Señase (Christian sector); Daisy Mangod (IP sector); Lacks Dama (BCOBAR); and Abduljaman Damahan (Basilan). The slots for Sulu and Tawi-Tawi will be filled up later. PMT