Bangsamoro CSOs: “retain and sustain” Acting Gov Ina Ambolodto

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 February) – At least 16 Bangsamoro civil society organizations and networks passed a resolution Tuesday calling on ARMM Acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong to “retain and sustain” Bai Nariman “Ina” Abdullah Ambolodto “as vice governor concurrent acting governor of the province of Maguindanao.”

In a two-page resolution, leaders of the Bangsamoro CSOs who convened a caucus on February 2,  said they “very humbly respectfully request” Adiong through Haroun Al-Rashid A Lucman, ARMM Secretary of  Local Governments and head of the Search Committee that would select the person who will serve as Acting Maguindanao Governor until June 30, to “continue supporting the efforts of Ina Ambolodto of enabling the provincial government to respond to the  various pressing needs of our people and communities; intensify and optimize ARMM regional government agency operations in cooperation with the provincial leadership of Ina Ambolodto to address the displacement of our people as a result of fighting and natural calamities, as well as our staggering poverty situation; and retain and sustain Ina as the Provincial Vice-Governor acting provincial Governor.”

The Bangsamoro CSOs, all of them serving Maguindanao  – Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society; Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace; Muassasah Ahliya;  Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc.; United Youth of the Philippines-Women; Interfaith Cooperation Forum; Kangudan Development Center, Inc.; Alliance of Bangsamoro for Peace and Sustainable Development;  Bangsamoro Youth Leaders Forum;  Kadtabanga Foundation, Inc.; Al-lhsan Foundation;  Mindanao Homeland Development, lnc.; 4. Moro Integrated Community Development, Inc.;  Moro Women Development and Cultural Center, Inc.; Mindanao Human Rights Resource and Action Center – said Ambolodto has been “doing justice and according pride to the trust and confidence bestowed by the Honorable Regional Governor, faithful to the tradition of transparent and accountable governance.”

Ambolodto was sworn in as  OIC Vice Governor on December 15. But Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno also named her concurrent Acting Governor. December 15 was exactly ten days since then OIC Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., was arrested.

Many applicants… but where’s the list?

Reports about a search committee started coming out just as Ambolodto was earning praises for having steered the province and putting in place basic governance systems in post-Ampatuan Maguindanao. (The Ampatuans were implicated in the November  23 massacre of  at least 58 persons, 32 of them media workers. Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., principal suspect in the massacre,  is facing charges of multiple murder while the patriarch former OIC Maguindanao governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and his son, ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy, were among those charged for rebellion).

A January 28 press statement posted on the website of the Department of  Interior and Local Government quoted Local Governments Undersecretary Marius Corpus as saying the ARMM leadership has created a search committee for 27 nominees for  Acting Maguindanao governor.

ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo told MindaNews in a telephone interview Monday morning that most of the 27 “nominees” had actually applied for the post, that Ambolodto was not among the nominees “but she can apply or be nominated.”

Asked who nominated the 27, the Cotabato City-based Sinarimbo said “most of them applied” for the post. “There are many applicants for governor,” he said.

MindaNews has been asking for a copy of the list of 27 nominees and applicants since Monday but the ARMM has yet to release the list.

“Vacant” seat

On Tuesday afternoon, ARMM Bureau of Public Information chief Ali Macabalang, sent a news release quoting ARM M officials as saying  “the issue at hand  is not a matter of replacing Ambolodto but to fill up a vacancy in the office of the Maguindanao governor, which is still vacant.”

Macabalang said he met with local officials and was told that after the national government installed him as Acting ARMM Governor on December 14, Adiong had appointed Engr. Nasser Sinarimbo (elder brother of the ARMM Executive Secretary who now heads the ARMM Social Fund project) and Amboldto,  an incumbent board member, as OIC- governor and OIC-vice governor, respectively to fill the top Maguindanao leadership vacancies.

Macabalang said  Sinarimbo “refused to assume office to pursue his career service in the ARMM bureaucracy, prompting Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno to install Ambolodto as OIC-vice governor on concurrent capacity as acting OIC-governor on Dec. 15.”

Macabalang wrote that “civil society groups including women’s sector and Church-backed NGOs have since shown satisfaction with the Ambolodto transitional governance” but “some interested resident leaders of Maguindanao have invoked to higher authorities and legal luminaries that the position of OIC-governor in Maguindanao is still vacant, hence, at least 27 of them have aspired for the slot, prompting acting ARMM Governor Adiong to create the search committee chaired by regional DILG Secretary Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman Jr. to screen them.”

Macabalang’s report quoted Adiong as saying everyone “is encouraged to apply or submit application (for the position).” Adiong according to the BPI chief, “anchors his administration on the operating principles of transparent, consultative and moral governance.”

The January 28 DILG press release did not name the 27 nominees but it added that among the requirements of the search committee is that “he or she should not be running for any elective position in the coming May elections; has the capacity to govern and ability to effect reforms in the province,” requirements that civil society groups said Ambolodto meets.

Ambolodto did not file her candidacy for any elective post “for personal reasons.”

“Most aptly chosen”

The Bangsamoro CSOs said Ambolodto “has proceeded to establish the basic foundations for the normal operations of the Maguindanao provincial government” and that she has immediately sat with the heads of provincial offices and convened anew the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Ambolodto has also convened the Provincial Peace and Order Council and Provincial Development Council and has seen through the enactment of the 2010 Performance Budget.

The groups said Acting ARMM Governor Adiong has “most apply chosen who wi1l steward the province in these very trying times.”

They also added that the Ambolodto’s efforts “have also merited immediate response from national offices and international organizations.”

The groups said  The Asia Foundation “has already sent an expert to provide Organizational Diagnostics for the Provincial Government of Maguindanao” and “will soon send another expert to assist us conduct a Fiscal Systems Review.”
The Commission on Audit, the groups said, “ has already commenced conducting a comprehensive audit of the fiscal administration of the provincial government” while the Civil Service Commission “will also conduct a personnel review coupled with personnel capacity enhancement initiatives.”

The resolution said Acting ARMM Governor Adiong “has chosen the most appropriate leader of our province” and that they appreciate Ambolodto’s three-fold mission.

“Transition governor”

Ambolodto, who considers herself as a “transition governor” set to do the following: normalize provincial government operations and services; support the conduct of a free and credible election; and facilitate the smooth transition and assumption of newly elected provincial officials.”

“The civil society anticipates intense partnership on all three arenas of engagement. We believe she will mobilize provincial government resources for the promotion of the public welfare,” the groups said in their resolution.

The groups said they were “appalled and gravely disturbed by the news account of a search committee to determine who would serve the remainder of the term until 30 June 2010.”

“We, individually and collectively, know for a fact that (Ambolodto) is not running for any public office We also have faith not only in her capacity  to govern but as well as on her ability to effect reforms in the province. We need not look elsewhere but simply appreciate how she has conducted governance which slowly yet very consistently effecting reforms.”

Copies of the resolution were also sent to Secretary Puno, Undersecretary Marius Corpus, and Sinarimbo.

Earlier, Irene Santiago, executive director of the Mindanao Commission on Women, said changing Ambolodto would be “a cruel joke on the people!”

“At this time when people’s faith in government has been badly shaken, we need officials like Ina who have foremost in their minds the people’s welfare and not their own. That is precisely why the Mindanao Commission on Women is forming a task force called ‘Ina’s Circle’ to support Ina in her efforts to bring about effective governance in Maguindanao.”

Ambolodto is the keynote speaker in the Mindanao Women’s Congress dubbed Kamindanawan 2010 tomorrow (February 4) in Davao City.

Fatmawati Salapuddin, public relations coordinator of the Lupah Sug Bangsamoro Women  said those who want to replace Ambolodto “do not want us to see an example of good governance in any part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). That’s the only reason they want to replace (her) in Maguindanao because she is doing a good job serving the people there.”

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance in Cotabato City and former Notre Dame University president said it would be “a sad day when a traditional politician becomes an acting governor.”

“Ina is doing well and it will be great if she is allowed to normalize the province until a new one is elected,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)