New COMELEC Chair and the qualities of a leader

By Atty. Bayan G. Balt

Never in the history of our country a Maranao leader was appointed Chairman of the powerful Commission on Elections, a constitutional office whose decisions is appealable only to the Supreme Court. Pres. Duterte in his talk to the nation the other day justified his selection of Saidamen B. Pangarungan as new COMELEC chair, simply he has all the qualities of a good leader.

I remember the new COMELEC chair, as we fondly called him “Gob.” started his political career as an opposition against the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan Party (KBL) was elected Assemblyman in the 1979 former Sanguniang Pampook (defunct Regional legislative Assembly). After he lost in that elections, he told me “We will appeal to the Commission on Elections”. He is a person who never easily give up his right, he was correct, the COMELEC en banc nullified his opponent’s proclamation and ultimately won and proclaimed as winner in that election.

Comelec chairman Saidamen Pangarungan

From 1982-1986, he was the vice president of the unified PDP-Laban or Pilipino Democratic Party Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban). After the 1986 EDSA revolution, he was appointed by Pres. Cory Aquino as OIC provincial Governor of Lanao del Sur replacing governor Mohamad Ali Dimaporo, a powerful ally of then President Ferdinand Marcos during the martial law regime. A challenge to his administration was the kidnapping of 12 Carmelite nuns from their Marawi hilltop convent by lawless group of men. From the Vatican, Pope John Paul II appealed to their captors to release the nuns who were later brought to Lumbayanague across south of Lake Lanao. After two weeks of continued search, Pangarungan led government security forces and encircled the kidnappers’ holdout. Under heavy pressure, the outnumbered kidnappers were forced to release all the nuns, safe and unharmed.

In 1987, he was elected Governor. As provincial executive of Lanao del Sur, he built several infra. projects for the first time such as the new provincial Capitol, the new Gymnasium, the People’s Park, sport arena, likewise he also concreted 110 kilometers of two major road networks: the Lake Lanao circumferential road and the Marawi-Malabang Road and constructed several farms to market roads. His four (4) year stint as provincial Governor was the golden era of the province’s infrastructures, growth and economic recovery. His work bear fruits as the Department of Finance (DOF) and Interior Local government later (DILG) upgraded Lanao del Sur from 5th class province to 2nd class province. During his watch the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the province was only P850,000 a month compared to the P160 million monthly at 2017 figures. During Pangarungan’s watch, the province was drug-free because of his staunch campaign against illegal drugs trade. Under his governorship, Lanao del Sur and its capital was much peaceful, with no recorded firefights or skirmishes between government and rebel forces. Pangarungan was awarded thrice as one of the “Most Outstanding Governors of the Philippines” in three consecutive years: 1989, 1990 and 1991.

Scholastic records.

Pangarungan was a consistent scholar from elementary as valedictorian, He finished his Liberal Arts degree in 1971 and Law in 1976 at the San Beda College an NISGP consistent scholar.  He passed the Philippine bar examinations on the same year with a weighted average of 85.6%.

He practice law with the prestigious Siguion-Reyna, Montecillo & Ongsiako law offices in Makati City until 1984, where he became a legal counsel of both local and multi-national companies in the Philippines such as Bank of America, Goodyear, Caltex, Sumitomo, Dole Philippines, San Miguel Corp., PLDT, Philippine Airlines, and Equitable PCI Bank (now BDO).

Abolishing of 2,000 ghost barangays.

Pangarungan was later appointed as undersecretary of Department of Interior and Local Government by President Corazon Aquino. He was tasked as chairman of the inter-agency committee that investigated the ghost barangays in the Muslim provinces. After 6 months of ocular investigations and upon his recommendations, President Aquino signed an executive order abolishing some 2,000 ghost barangays in the two Lanao provinces, saving the government billions of pesos in regular allotments to the non-existent or uninhabited villages. As undersecretary, he also helped craft an executive order granting regular salaries and allowances to barangay (village) officials in the country.

Peacemaker*.

Pangarungan was also a member of the Philippine delegation at the World Muslim Congress in Karachi, Pakistan in 1983, where he sponsored the adoption of the ‘Karachi Declaration for Peace & Unity’ to revive the long stalled peace talks between the Marcos government and the rebel MNLF and BMLO forces. The delegation included Senators Acmad Domocao Alonto, Salipada Pendatun, speakers Uttoh Ututalum and Abulkhayr Alonto, Court of Appeals justice Mama Busran and Princess Tarhata Lucman.[3] In 1987, President Cory Aquino sent Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Agapito Butz Aquino, Norberto Gonzales and Pangarungan to the Organization of Islamic Conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to revive the peace talks with the MNLF- Nur Misuari faction. This led to the signing of the Jeddah Accord of 1987. Nur Misuari ended his exile and returned to the Philippines to eventually sign the 1996 Final Peace Accord with the government.

He belongs to a Royal blood and family of heroes.

He was enthroned Sultan of the Sultanate of Madaya, Marawi City on July 5, 2009, attended by 12,000 dignitaries and guests. His father’s parents belong to the martyrs, the Sultan of Bayang and Sultan Pandapatan, the two Maranao Muslim leaders that fought the United States 37th Cavalry forces in the Battle of Bayang of May 2 ,1902, described in American press as the fiercest battle in the history of the entire Philippine Insurrections. ”Gob” is not tired to continue his struggle for a better governance and surely under his watch “for an honest, orderly and peaceful elections”.

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For comments: Email me at bayanbalt@yahoo.com

Atty. Bayan G. Balt is the former Chapter President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP-Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, 2013-2015), and Chairman of the Ranao Federal State Movement, RFSM).

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