By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu was amazed to learn that one young journalist interviewing him on some occasions was once one of his scholars.
He was talking about the Maguindanao Program on Education Assistance and Community Empowerment dubbed as (MagPEACE), which he said had benefited almost 7,000 students from poor families and produced over a thousand professionals including a lawyer and a physician, when Crizbell May Lorezon interrupted him to say she knew the MagPEACE program.
“Alam ko po yong program kase isa po ako sa mga scholars niyo,” Lorenzo told the lawmaker, who was the guest of the Bangsamoro Press Corps’ (BPC’s) Tapatan Forum last Saturday.
Rep. Mangudadatu instantly beamed in awe and later asked the forum technical section to take a screenshot photo of him and Lorenzo for a souvenir.
Lorenzo, sitting as co-host of the forum, confessed though she was not able to fully enjoy her scholarship in college because the MagPEACE had been discontinued by the present provincial government when Mangudadatu’s three-term as governor of Maguindanao ended in 2019 and he was elected Congressman.
Mangudadatu, too, expressed dismay about the discontinuation of the MagPEACE program, saying it was a regular program of the provincial government meant to abate high illiteracy rate and capacitate poor families in seeing their children finish college and even post-graduate degrees, and become professionals.
He said education development was one of his administration’s eight-point agenda premised even on Islamic tenets mandating mankind to seek knowledge from cradle to the grave.
The lawmaker, who runs for a fourth gubernatorial term under the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), said he would reactivate the MagPEACE if he is elected on May 9, 2022.
He highlighted the scholarship program among various accomplishments during his three-term gubernatorial reign (2010-2019) at the media forum to answer allegations by political critics that he had performed dismally as governor of Maguindanao.
Contrary to the criticisms, the lawmaker said, Maguindanao had slid down from second to ninth place in the list of the country’s top 10 poorest provinces in the country, under his administration. (AGM)