by Ali G. Macabalang
While the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim governance has so far been shaping generally a positive image for its rampaging manner of planning and carrying out mostly unprecedented services alongside socio-economic and infrastructure projects, there still lies a black spot in the operations of a few regional ministries.
An assessment in the volume and nature of news releases from the Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO), the official media outfit of the BARMM, will simply detect which of the regional ministries is or are actively functioning.
From dozens if not hundreds of BIO-produced press releases, private journalists belonging to the Bangsamoro Press Corps (BPC) have yet to find one from the Ministry of Human Settlement and Development (MHSD).
MHSD is a very vital agency in the face of a sporadic cycle in BARMM areas of social displacement cases that peak in the case of thousands of war-torn Marawi City’s displaced residents, notably those still unaccounted for in different parts of the country.
MHSD officials have not also publicly issued a reaction to earlier complaints through the social media about the lack of the ministry’s field offices in Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces. Sources said the MHSD has a regional office in Cotabato City and a field outfit in Marawi City, the hometown of the Minister Aminoddin Barra and most of his rank and file personnel.
The BPC had asked a BIO lead news writer about three months ago about the absence of a story from the MHSD. The fellow said the agency, like other ministries, is supposed to have its own information officer to supply news articles to the BIO.
The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) parliament, in which Minister Barra is also a member, no news story on his activities has been made and released by the BTA’s Publication and Media Relations Division (PMRD).
An officer of BPC had once monitored Minister Barra holding a radio program in Marawi City – something that MHSD officials or the minister himself should also be doing in any of the broadcast entities in Cotabato City, the seat of the BARMM governance.
According to workers of private and government media entities, such as the Philippine News Agency, the Philippine Broadcasting Service and Philippine Information Agency, they would want the MHSD to be in the limelight especially amid public confusions over the snail-paced Marawi rehab efforts and its displaced residents’ plight.
The Bangsamoro Press Corps, a group of mostly private journalists organized last April 17, is inviting the MHSD to be a regular guest in the BPC weekly (every Saturday) “Tapatan” Forum. The maiden episode of the forum is set to reel off at 10a.m. to 12noon this Saturday. Aug. 21.
The need for MHSD’s public visibility surfaced anew when this writer, at a webinar sponsored last Wednesday by the Philippine Press Institute, drew no satisfactory answer from the National Housing Authority (NHA) or the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) on the question of who will trace thousands of Marawi IDPs stull scattered in the country.
NHA Undersecretary Zyril Carlos was asked twice about the same question with no categorical answer.
The obvious lapse prompted me to suggest to the TFBM or the NHA to tap the National Commission Muslim Filipinos as a lead agency in tracing the unaccounted IDPs outside Marawi estimiated at 40,000 persons (but Carlos put it at 19,000). The NCMF has regional and field offices across the nation.
The MHSD and NHA are both member-agencies of the TFBM. Marawi City-based Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr. was asked the same question over two months ago. He gave no categorical answer, too.
Tracing and sending back IDPs from the outside are imperative because the BARMM government has started giving out assistance to war-affected residents in Marawi without the unaccounted IDPs getting share. They suffer triple whammy – displacement, coronavirus pandemic and deprivation of due assistance.
The homecoming of the IDPs is equally important in the eventual completion of TFBM-touted buildings and centers in Marawi City.
Can you call buildings a home without human occupants? (AGM)