By Ali G. Macabalang
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) now belongs to the circle of national agencies in 165 nations acknowledged by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for exemplary standards in management and service delivery, bouncing effectively off from what its current officialdom described as dark past.
Officials, commissioners and heads of bureaus of the NCMF joined Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan on Thursday, Dec. 16 in receiving the symbolic ISO certification from representatives of the international standard-setting body in a formal ceremony at the Park-Inn by Robinson, SM North City in Quezon City.
Chants of Alhamdulillah (Praise unto Allah) were heard while Sec. Pangarungan, Executive Director Taher Lidasan and the heads of NCMF five bureaus were taking turns in receiving framed certifications from officials of the Bureau Viritas, an ISO component.
In his speech, Sec. Pangarungan appreciated receiving the ISO recognition, and conveyed the NCMF family’s vow to live by or even improve whatever management and operational feats that impresses the global certifying body.
“We have started our ISO journey, and we will not rest on our laurels. Now more than ever, we need to back up our accomplishments and show all of the Filipinos that the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos has arrived. And Muslim Filipinos, if given the opportunity, can excel in government service,” he said.
Pangarungan recalled that when President Duterte named him NCMF secretary in July 2018, he was met upon office assumption with “a clear yearning for change and reform” in the agency.
“The Commission had (faced) sometimes vicious but mostly valid criticisms. There were scandals like the fiasco on the sale by a few NCMF officials of Philippine passports to Indonesian hajj nationals which caught news headlines and national outrage. This tainted the integrity of the very fabric of the Filipino Muslim identity. There were various accusations of corruption and fraud. There was an air of bureaucratic malaise,” he recalled.
“And when I entered the fray, I said to myself, this cannot continue anymore. Armed with marching order from the President, I (joined the NCMF) to reform, to right the wrongs, and to give what the Muslim Filipinos deserve,” he said.
But he admitted difficulty in initiating reforms: “It was not a walk in the park. It was met by fierce resistance by those who refused change. To dishearten my resolve, I was viciously maligned on social media. I had experienced the most virulent attacks against my person and honor. Cases of every denomination were filed against me in all fora by those who wanted to replace me as Secretary.”
“Alhamdulillah, Allah is great and just. These cases were either dismissed or archived at best. They did not see the light of day. Not one of these trumped-up charges succeeded to demonize me. Neither did it work to block my re-appointment as NCMF Secretary for a second term. And now, we are reaping the fruits of all our efforts,” he stressed.
Because his first appointment in the NCMF was made on the verge of preparations for the 2018 annual hajj, he said, his immediate remedial efforts tackled the agency’s administration of the Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca). The performance of hajj is obligatory to qualified Muslim as one of five pillars of Islam.
In the Philippines, the NCMF which evolved originally the Philippine Pilgrimage Authority and Office on Muslim Affairs to its present name is mandated to administer the hajj. Pangarungan’s reforms in the hajj practices drew mileage.
“We reformed the Hajj by providing the best accommodation to thousands of Filipino pilgrims in 4.7 to 5 star hotels in Saudi Arabia. This is many times better than the sorry decrepit housing in the past. We reduced the Mutawiff or Hajj service fees and plane fares substantially. We succeeded in negotiating the waiver of outstanding debts of previous Philippine hajj missions,” Pangarungan siad.
He said his administration “activated and implemented the 24 mandates of the Commission as provided in the NCMF Charter including national peace-building through Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, the development to greater heights of halal, Shariah, Islamic finance and the Madrasah educational system.”
He said the NCMF has also “pro-actively responded to the challenges of the Covid19 pandemic through our on-going relief operations and other assistance to the calls for help by more than 200,000 Muslim families nationwide.”
“With these features of good governance by NCMF’s process owners, we succeeded in our (bid for) ISO 9001:2015 Certification with zero non-conformity. We elevated the NCMF status from a lowly state to professional excellence in government service. This we accomplished with the pandemic in the background,” Pangarungan pointed out.
In Filipino, Sec. Pangarungan capped his speech to thank the entire NMCF rank and file personnel for cooperating with the reform initiatives, and President Duterte, Senator Bong Go and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea for giving him the opportunity to serve the Commission that led to the ISO recognition.
The ISO is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national organizations in 165 countries worldwide, according to Wikipedia.
Born on 23 Feb. 1947, the ISO develops and publishes worldwide technical, industrial and commercial standards. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and works in all member-countries.
It is an independent, non-governmental organization, the members of which are the standards organizations. It is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards, facilitating world trade by providing common standards among nations. More than 20,000 standards have been set, covering everything from manufactured products and technology to food safety, agriculture, and healthcare.
The use of the standards aids in the creation of products and services that are safe, reliable, and of good quality. The standards help businesses increase productivity while minimizing errors and waste. By enabling products from varied markets to be directly compared, they facilitate companies in entering new markets and assist in the development of global trade on a fair basis.
The standards also serve to safeguard consumers and the end-users of products and services, ensuring that certified products conform to the minimum standards set internationally.
The ISO began in the 1920s as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA). It was suspended in 1942 during World War II, but after the war ISA was approached by the recently formed United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC) with a proposal to form a new global standards body.
In October 1946, ISA and UNSCC delegates from 25 countries met in London and agreed to join forces to create the new International Organization for Standardization. The new organization officially began operations in Feb. 1947. (AGM)