By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The first lady regional prosecutor for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has pipelined six top priorities she deemed essential for sound prosecution and more convictions in cases filed before her office.
Lawyer Rohairah Ampuan Lao enumerated her top priorities cum “major concerns” in a chat on Monday, Aug. 15 with The Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) news maid her continued receipt of well-wishes from prominent officials for her recent office assumption as first female regional prosecutor in the area of autonomy.
Lao, obviously young and gorgeous, was appointed regional state prosecutor (RSP) by Justice Secretary Mernardo Guevara last July 12, succeeding RSP Ramy Guiling, who reached the mandatory age retirement. She had served as provincial prosecutor for Maguindanao since February 2016 prior to her new appointment cum promotion.
“As the newly-appointed regional prosecutor of Region XIV – BARMM, I am faced with the following major concerns that I want to prioritize and give special attention to (at least six thrusts),” Lao told the PMT news.
Since the evolution of regional autonomy from the Marcos regime until the birth of the 31-month old BARMM, the regional prosecution office had been administered by male appointees.
BARMM covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the cities of Cotabato, Lamitan and Marawi, and 63 villages in North Cotabato.
Lao said she will cause the “filling up of vacant prosecutorial positions in the field offices, especially in BASULTA (Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) and Maguindanao (because) we only have 40% of the total number of available positions in the entire region.”
Vacancies for other personnel and staff positions in the field offices will likewise be filled up under his watch to fully operationalize her office for optimum prosecutorial results, she said.
Another priority thrust is the setting up of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) in BARMM “hopefully beginning 2022,” Lao said.
The three other priorities, she said, include a physical renovation in the Office of the Regional Prosecutor (ORP), an introduction of reforms in the ORP management and operation, she added.
She said her sixth priority, which would stem from the five other top thrusts, is the enhancement of the performance of the regional prosecution “in terms of case disposal and conviction rate, among other things.”
While she came as the maiden female RSP in the autonomous region, Lao also appears to be the first ORP head that linked up with the media and publicized her “major concerns.”
According to published reports, Lao earned accolades during her stint as Maguindanao’s provincial prosecutor for having “secured convictions for crimes against women and children, high-profile drug trafficking, and other criminal cases.”
Observers said Lao could have secured more convictions had some witnesses refrained from backing out due to the lack of WPP in the region.
Upon assuming office last month, several known personalities had taken turns in congratulating Lao. Among them were Lanao del Sur Governor Bombit Adiong, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra, North Cotabato Vice Governor Lala Taliño-Mendoza, and Southern Philippines Development Authority Administrator Jerry Salapuddin. (AGM)