BALINTATAW: Proud to belong to the ARMM

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/22 April) — April 16th, 2012 is now a hallmark of new things happening in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM. The OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, for the first time, unfolded the changes in the ARMM under the theme: “Unang Daan Tungo sa Masagana’t Mapayapang ARMM”

About a year ago, in the 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Benigno Simeon Aquino pointed out the major issues that were WRONG about the ARMM – political patronage, private army, huge cash advances, ghost teachers, ghost infrastructures, continuing poverty, and electoral fraud. These ‘wrongs’ were the reasons for the cancelation of the 2011 ARMM Elections that paved the way for ‘reforming’ the ARMM bureaucracy and style of governance.

Gov. Hataman prefaced his report with a quote from the martyred civil rights fighter, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Cowardice asks the question ‘is it safe?’ Expedience asks the question ‘is it political?’ Vanity asks, ‘is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘is it right?’ There comes a time when one must take a position that’s neither safe nor political nor popular, but he must take it, because his conscience tells him that it’s right.”

MLK, Jr.’s words have become the keynote of his first one hundred days performance in office as OIC Governor.  His acceptance of the designation by President Benigno Aquino to become steward of the most maligned ARMM during the crucial period of transition is, he says, a choice of conscience that impels him to go beyond political and personal considerations.  He has taken the challenge, simply because conscience tells him that he can make a difference in the ARMM albeit for a limited period of 16 months.


The mandate from the President when he assumed office consists only of ONE, that is, REFORM the ARMM.  This Reform ARMM now consists of the following three components:  (1) Matuwid na pamamahala; (2) Maunlad na pangkabuhayan at maayos na paninilbihan sa mga nasasakupan ng ARMM, lalo na ng  mga taga malalayong kanayunan; at (3) Mapayapa at ligtas na komunidad sa mga naninirahan sa ARMM.


At first glance, the performance of the first 100 days consists in good housekeeping chores.  A lot of ‘ghost busting’ strategies have been employed from the simple revocation of the usual practice of ‘detailing employees’ (from ARMM to any points in the Republic of the Philippines) to the ‘ATMization’ of employees/teachers’ salaries.  No doubt, there are more needs to be done… but the process of ‘exorcising’ ghosts in the ARMM bureaucracies, particularly in DepEd has begun.


At the core of the ‘matuwid na pamamahala’ is the articulated policy of adopting ‘open governance’ during the transition period.  Open governance requires for all government instrumentalities, beginning with the Office of the Governor, complete transparency and accountability.  The launching of the ARMM ‘Portal’ is the new window and platform of open governance.  With a simple click of a finger, information, projects, transactions and budgets of ARMM bureaucracies are now accessible. The same ‘Portal’ is also connected to the ARMM web site.


The reports present the accomplishments of Governor Mujiv S. Hataman in his First 100 days in Office from December 22, 2011 to April 2, 2012.  It consists of accomplishments in the formulation and implementation of regional policies.


The believers in reforms welcome the reports. The performance of the first 100 days shows that it is possible to adopt a ‘matuwid na daan’ in the ARMM. What it only requires is a political will and a commitment coupled by concrete examples to put an end to the years of corruption, entitlements and impunity, in short, ‘tuldukan and katiwalian’ in the ARMM.


There are ‘doubters’ about the on-going reforms in the ARMM.  There are also the cynics that question anything that is dubbed as ‘matuwid na daan’. They, too, are facts of life and they continue to see the ‘wrongs’ where real reforms are taking place.  There are still others who have been displaced or people whose perks and entitlements, suddenly, disappeared.  They have become bitter about any reform and their wrath has become implacable.


What is important is that new fresh wind is blowing the ARMM way. This is the wind of reforms.  Either you catch the new wind or simply be blown by it!  To many ARMM constituencies, this new wind is, indeed, a refreshing one that makes people begin feeling proud to belong to the new ARMM! [MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., OMI, former president of the Notre Dame University, is now Executive Director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG)]