SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Profiling Antonino. By H. Marcos C. Mordeno

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/8 Sept) – A pointblank question: Is newly appointed Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chair Luwalhati Ricasa-Antonino qualified for the job?

There are at least three ways to deal with this question: 1] juxtaposing her credentials with the qualifications as provided for in the law creating MinDA, 2] scrutinizing her personal philosophy and vision – if any – of how to attain the decades-old aspiration to significantly turn around Mindanao’s sluggish economy, and 3] quizzing her about her views on the Moro question and other major issues that have a bearing on the island’s development and security situation.

Republic Act 9996 provides that the MinDA chair should be “a holder of a degree in law or a masteral degree in any of the following fields: economics, business, public administration, law, management, or their equivalent and have at least ten (10) years relevant experience in said fields: provided, further, that he/she shall be a resident of Mindanao for at least (5) years before the appointment.”

MindaNews (September 7, 2010) reported that Antonino, while serving as South Cotabato congresswoman, listed her profession as “engineer”. If she holds no other academic credentials, at least one of those enumerated under the law, then her appointment is questionable and is simply a political payoff for supporting President Aquino in the May 10 elections. The payoff, however, is a case of giving much for less since Aquino lost in Antonino’s place. Mr. President, Sir, you should have seen the balance sheet first.

Her patrons in Malacañang may cite the phrase “or their equivalent” in justifying the move but it doesn’t need much genius to understand that engineering can never be an equivalent of any of the disciplines cited by the law.

For sure, Antonino’s supporters in political and business circles will come to her rescue and assure the people of Mindanao that she can deliver. Yet the issue is not who supports whom. The issue is whether her appointment satisfies the legal requirements.

Another thing going against Antonino is her strong anti-Moro bias. As MindaNews cited in the same report, she was vocal in her opposition to the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development, the creation of which was agreed upon between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front. This alone puts in question her would-be attitude towards the island’s Moro population in as far as development programs are concerned.

Antonino’s unabashed anti-Moro prejudice betrays a sheer lack of appreciation of Mindanao’s troubled history, an important asset for anybody who wishes to head an agency like MinDA. On hindsight, the framers of RA 9996 should have included among the qualifications [of the MinDA chair] an expert’s knowledge on Mindanao history. Wishes. Wishes. Not all of them can come true.

Government did a great job in creating the MinDA. But this early, transactional politics has threatened to erode such gain. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])