My tribute to a great friend, public servant

By ALI G. MACABALANG

I am greatly saddened about the untimely demise of Dr. Anshari P. Ali, my great friend and a model in public service. My niece, Lorraine Macabalang-Dagalangit-Sarigala, one of his trusted subordinates in The MSU-Gen. Santos City campus, called me up a few minutes after Dr. Ali suffered fatal cardiac arrest on Saturday.

Photo shows the author, left, interviewing the late MSU-GenSan Chancellor Dr. Anshari Ali. (File)

I was stunned more to hear from my niece that she and MSU-GSC chancellor Ali planned to visit me this month for another round of heart-to-heart talk. We had met many times personally and virtually.

Our first meeting happened at his office in Gen. Santos City on Dec. 8, 2020, during which shared common views on good governance and I had begun writing about his vision, traits, strides and activities in public service. I have written dozens of news items and commentaries about him and his colorful rise in public service.  

Dr. Anshari Ali in a casual dress. (File)

How Dr. Ali earned his formal education as an orphan from Bacolod-Kalawi, Lanao del Sur is a success story I first heralded in my media outlets.

I am not alone in admiring Dr. Ali. The international community, including the UNESCO, the embassies of Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia as well as academes in the Middle East and Africa had honored him formal citations.

Impressed about his moral governance advocacy, I facilitated interviews by the Manila-based DWIZ and other media entities for him to propagate his knowledge and observance of ethical standards in public service.

Personally, I saw in him great potentials to be the next president of the Mindanao State University (MSU) system or any higher office in government.    

In tribute to his untimely demise, I am reposting hereunder three of my several write-ups published about him and his career, and the photo of our first meeting and an image I took of him in a huddle, viz:           

Conflict in Ibada and Public Service tenets

 By Ali G. Macabalang, Jan. 8, 2021

There seems to be a conflict between ibada (ideal deeds in Islam) and career service principles.

Ibada-related feats should be kept between the doers and Allah (s.w.t.) and not heralded, lest the divine rewards for the good acts will vanish. On the other hand, the government’s transparency policy obliges public servants to unveil to the public all their activities that involved public funds.

The issue may appear trivial. But for the officials of the Bangsamoro autonomous region’s transitional governance, this stands as an imperative matter to ponder on, especially in pursuit of their commitment for moral governance. The public – comprising skeptics, critics and supporters – closely monitor the BARMM operation as to whether or not the commitment is going to be realized.  

In two occasions, BARMM executive Secretary and Environment Minister Abdulraof “Sammy Gambay” Macacua had confessed to journalists including me about their mixed feelings in conveying through the media their initial feats in the context of Islamic tenet on ibada.

.”Apart from regular programs and thrusts, we are also embarking on humanitarian activities such as providing cash aids and relief materials to needy constituents. Initially, we thought of keeping the grants of assistance untold for fear that the barakah (Divine rewards) will be eroded,” Macacua said.

But in one of the occasions, I argued with Macacua that abiding fully by their fear is affront to government policy for transparency in all state-funded undertakings.

Besides, I said that a public official should opt for niyat (intention) that heralding the delivery of goods and services especially in ideal fashion is meant to inspire other people to follow suit or replicate.

Similar fate

The incumbent chancellor of the Mindanao State University-General Santos campus, Dr. Anshari Ali, similarly faces the dilemma.

Before we crossed paths last December, I had been hearing many feedbacks about unprecedented improvements and reforms his almost two-year administration has achieved in a fashion that earned for him citations as exemplary educator from local and foreign entities, including the UNNESCO.

The accolades reportedly came one after another as subordinate officials and workers of the MSU-GenSan campus publicized Dr. Ali’s feats in their official publications and website. The satellite campus’ website is accessed regularly by dozens of searchers, possibly including the entities that awarded him in separate ceremonies.

It was during my personal meeting with Dr. Ali last Dec. 8 that I learned a lot of human interest stories about his reign that I deem worth drumbeating for the purpose of inspiring other government officials to replicate.

Of course, I know that Dr. Ali knows more about the intricacies of the relationship between Philippine government’s policies and Islamic philosophies in Islam. He holds a doctorate degree in Islamic studies and, in fact, a Sha’riah Law practitioner and professor. Allahu alam [only God know]. (AGM)

Late DPWH Director Ibrahim and ‘moral leadership’

 By Ali G. Macabalang, Feb. 5, 2021

The “Moral Governance” (MG) that the Bangsamoro government is espousing to achieve has faced skepticisms from the people including Moro professionals either residing in the region or concerned with the evolution of new autonomy.  

Critics have painted the regional MG slogan with a dismal prospect for realization if not next to impossible. I argue that skepticism or pessimism is affront to a Persian adage: “He who does not hope to win has already lost.”   

Moral leadership in contemporary life is not a far-fetched dream because the late Hadji Mastor Ibrahim, who served as regional director for over a decade of the graft-laden Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), had successfully lived by and exemplified it.

Fact 1: In the advent of the Marcos Martial Law regime, a Moro politician known for unprecedented influence to the deposed “dictator,” went to the office of then DPWH (MPWH) Secretary (Minister) Jesus Hipolito and asked for the replacement of Ibrahim by another Moro engineer allied with him.

Hipolito rejected the request, telling the politico that “Ibrahim is the most honest regional director his ministry has.” The influential politico, obviously not used to rejection of his requests, smashed the minister’s glass table with a clenched fist. The politico went to Marcos and mentioned his experience with Hipolito. The late President reportedly also told his influential leader in Mindanao: “Request something else.”

Hence, the late Ibrahim continued to serve as regional director until his retirement, without having a personal car with a simple house he built for his family constructed out of bank loan plus personal incomes.

Fact 2: One day Ibrahim left his sick wife at a hospital in Manila and went home to Mindanao to seek loan to pay the bills of his spouse. When he returned to hospital, the billing section told him the bills were already settled by somebody he later recognized a contractor. He asked the contract: “Retrieve your money if you want to maintain a link with my office.” With his order heeded by the donor-contractor, Ibrahim paid the bills out of his fresh bank loan.

Fact 3: My late wife was sick at home and a friend doctor prescribed medicines worth P800. I went to Director Ibrahim and confided my dilemma of incapacity to buy the medicine. He pulled out his wallet and picked one of three 50-peso bills and gave it to me, saying: “Orak (little brother), please accept this (P50) as ikhlas aid from available money earned honestly.” But he advised me to drop by at the offices of his two assistant regional directors for possible help. I did as instructed and the two ARDs gave me P1,000 cash each.

Fact 4: A son of Ibrahim had a conversation on recess time with two classmates, who happened to be children of district engineers under the honest director. The two classmates asked Ibrahim’s son: “Why do come to school alone with a car transporting you…when your daddy is the boss of our fathers?” When the son confronted his son, Ibrahim could just say: “Your daddy is living by amanah (honesty) ordained by Allah (God) for all mankind.”

In a nutshell, it is not true that “moral leadership” cannot happen nowadays. The real problem is many public officials do not live by the commandments of God.

‘Moral Governance’ definition

Dr. Anshari P. Ali, current chancellor of the Mindanao State University-General Santos City (MSU-GSC) campus, who also looks up to the late Engineer Ibrahim as an icon of morality in public service, defined “moral leadership” in a statement sent to this columnist.

“Theologically speaking, moral governance is founded on the concept of Khilafah (vicegerency) as stated in a verse in the Qur’an verse, in which Allah says: Inni jailun fil ardhi khalifa (verily I will make a representative to the Earth,” said Ali, who holds a doctorate in Islamic Civilization at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), International Islamic University in Malaysia and master’s degree from UP-Diliman. 

“While God is the King of the Universe, the soul is deemed as king over human-body representing God. Being God’s vicegerent, the main task of the soul-king is to enforce God’s commandment over its human-body first, prior to ruling the affairs of the society,” he said.  

“The first trial for moral governance of the soul-king is one’s leadership over his human body. If he failed to govern himself, he is expected to fail in governing other persons or reforming the affairs of his domain. In the human body kingdom lie entities called five external senses and five internal senses,” he explained.

He said the five external senses include the power of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touch-feeling, while the internal senses are the faculties of common sense, power of thought, power of imagination, power of memory and power of judgment.

The internal and external senses often translate to like and dislike, which usually evolve to desire leading to greed and disgust leading to hatred, respectively, when the beholders failed to moderate them, Ali said.

Desire and anger lie in the heart of every person. The heart is the temple of goodness and badness, which reflect godliness and impiety (evil), respectively. God sent down guidance to mankind through His prophets/ messengers to profess and exemplify His commandments towards piety, he said.

As a trial for human piety (submission to God), Satan has been allowed to mislead mankind towards the opposite (impiety), tempting people to the glitters of worldly comforts, and swaying them to develop desires into greed and dislikes to hatred. Greed manifests in profuse desire for something exceeding one’s needs, while hatred is revealed in one’s excessive dislike of people, things and affairs in his environment, Dr. Ali hinted.

He said this theory is interpreted in a Hadith, which says that when the heart is contaminated by greed and hatred, the beholder destroys himself, his household, other people around him, and later the society.

God revealed Suratul Asr (103rd chapter in the Qur’an):“By Al-’Asr (the time).  Verily, man is in [deep] loss, except for those who believe and do good deeds, urge one another to the truth and urge one another to patience,” he said.

This surah opens with admonition to humankind.  Allah (s.w.t.) takes an oath by “time” and declares that humankind is in a state of loss.  Every single human being, man or woman, is in a state of loss except those who strive and do four things; believe, do righteous deeds, and recommend one another to truth, and to sabr (observe patience).

Sabr is one of four principal traits of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) bequeathed to his followers starting from his four caliphs (vicegerents). The three other traits are sukhr (contentment and gratefulness to whatever God provides), fikr (utmost concern for oneself, community and environment), and Zikr (constant remembrance of God). AGM

MSU-GenSan upgrading campus security, punctuality

 By Ali G. Macabalang, Jan. 8, 2021

GEN. SANTOS CITY – Buoyed by strings of local and foreign citations characterizing its operations in last two years, the Mindanao State University-General Santos (MSU-GenSan) satellite unit here is girding to sustain the momentum this year and embarking even on setting records anew in both academic and administrative operations.

Foremost of its agenda for 2021 is the use of drones for 24/7 security surveillance inside the MSU-GenSan campuses here and the adoption for face-recognizing gadgets to improve workers punctuality, proponent officials said.

Five units of face-detecting devices were already purchased last week and being installed in five busy offices of the satellite campus, Lorraine D. Sarigala, MSU-GenSan audit office head, told the Philippine Muslim Today Wednesday.

She said their bids and awards committee (BAC) has started the bidding for the purchase of a drone to upscale 24/7 campus security service.

“Harnessing new technologies is a salient segment of our collective drive to make MSU-GenSan globally competitive in the real sense as pledged by our present leadership,” Sarigala said, referring to Campus Chancellor Anshari P. Ali.

She averred: “Dr. Ali is pursuing not only moral governance but also a truly competitive academic unit. He thinks and moves always ahead in

Dr. Ali was installed to office as MSU-GenSan chancellor on April 8, 2019 in grand investiture ceremony here, during which he vowed an innovative leadership to link up with counterparts in the international community, make the field campus at par with high standard universities world-wide, and carve a prominent spot in the global education map for the MSU system, according to published narratives.

In an exclusive interview here last Dec. 8, the 57-year old Ali narrated some challenges and achievements of his less than two-year regime, ranging from rehabilitation of dormitories’ toilets and other administrative structures to complex academic operation and modernization.

Students’ welfare   

Improving facilities for human welfare is a basic Islamic philosophy exemplified by Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.) in building good toilets before constructing a mosque, said Dr. Ali, who is also an Islamic scholar.

“There can be no university without students. Students’ comfortable environment reflects the quality of any school,” he pointed out.

Academic and administrative thrusts  

Dr. Ali recalled that upon his appointment as campus chancellor, he had also embarked on improving the plight of campus workers by filling up all available position-items for qualified aspirants, proving faculty members to study grants for post-graduate degrees in and outside the country, giving all monetary incentives appropriate for all of the campus academic and administrative units.

In corroboration, Sarigala said all monetary perks including the service rendered incentives (SRIs) for all employees in MSU-GenSan for 2020 have been released, citing reports that the university main campus and other satellite units were still sourcing out funds to pay SRIs of their respective personnel.

“Improving the welfare of campus workforce as well is a requisite for successful academic operations,” Ali said.

Ali cited the recent approval by the MSU Board of regents of his proposal for the elevation of teachers’ positions in the high school department of the satellite campus to collegiate or professorial level, pointing out that such move would not only upgrade in many folds the beneficiaries’ salaries but also boost further their moral to “do their best” in making MSU-GenSan an exemplary academic institution.

Administratively speaking, Ali said, he has been seeing to it that “every penny entrusted to us will be spent for the purpose.

“I am trying my best to demonstrate in actions my advocacies for moral governance. I am doing it as my sworn-duty in public service and in my covenant with our Almighty Creator,” he said.

Dr. Ali was set to present his administration’s challenges, gains and aspiration in a live interview today, Jan. 6, over DWIZ. (AGM)

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