Who should be the next MinDA chair?

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/31 July) –  Several names have cropped up as possible successor of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair Jesus Dureza but the law creating MinDA is specific as to the qualifications the nominee for chair must possess.

Section 7 of RA 9996 states that the MinDA chair “shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines with a Cabinet rank  and shall act as the Head of office. He/she shall serve a term of six years from the date of his/her appointment unless removed for cause:  Provided, that no person shall be appointed as chairperson unless he/she is 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; Provided, finally, that he/she shall also be the Philippine Senior Official for BIMP-EAGA and shall likewise be an ex officio member of the NEDA Board and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority  (TIEZA) Board.

Dureza, who wrote President Aquino through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, his offer to  relinquish the MinDA chairmanship to give the President “ free hand and full opportunity” to choose the chair who will carry out the mandate of  the office under his administration.

Dureza said he would “voluntarily relinquish the position upon the assumption of the new Chair of your choice,” to “ensure a smooth and seamless transition and avoid any hiatus in the Authority’s operations.”

Among the names mentioned in different Mindanao circles are politicians Luwalhati Antonino or her husband, Adelbert Antonino;  Amina Rasul, convenor of the Philippine Council on Islam and Democracy; former university presidents Fr. Eliseo Mercado of  Notre Dame University and Edmundo Prantilla of University of Southeastern Philippines; Leo Abellera Magno,  former regional director of the Land Transportation Office in Southern Mindanao who served as Mindanao campaign manager when Senator Chiz Escudero was mulling the Presidency;  management consultant Roberto Arquiza, Neric Acosta of the Liberal Party (who ran for but did not win a Senate seat and therefore cannot be appointed to a public office until after a year), and Dureza again.

Vicente Lao of the Mindanao Business Council and Mindanao Electric Power Alliance chair prefers Dureza to remain in office. “It will be up to P-Noy if his resignation will be accepted.”

Davao businessman John Gaisano told MindaNews that “ideally, the MinDA chair would be one who is not a politician but one who thinks of Mindanao as one whole socio-economic development area and one who can work with LGU officials.”

Former MBC and Mindanao Economic Development Council chair Angie Angliongto said he can’t think of anyone so far, but adds, “I hope hindi trapo” (I hope not a traditional politician).

For Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar, theologian, anthropologist and author of several books  Mindanao said more than proposing a name for MinDA chair, the greater concern is “how can civil society in Mindanao-Sulu, including us who are  NGIs (non-governmental individuals) and therefore are not attached to well-established NGOs or hold key positions in mass movements or organizations, take part – as volunteers – in making MinDA truly a body that responds to the needs of Mindanawons – especially the most marginalized and given the urgent priority concerns namely: conflict resolution and peace-building, disenfrachisement of the poorest sectors especially the Lumad and Moro peoples who have so long been neglected by the State vis-a-vis access to basic needs as well as issues of genuine land reform and ancestral domain protection, continuing militarization and human  rights violations, environmental degradation and empowering governance structures at the grassroots?”

“Where do we begin? Who will take the initiative? Are the existing bodies e.g. NGO-Caucus, Kusog Mindanaw,  Mindanao PeaceWeavers, MPC (Mindanao Peoples Caucus) and all other collaborative efforts including those that are in partnership with Local Government Units, etc. in a position to take the initiatives or are local initiatives preferable at this stage in time?. Where are the tunnels of opportunities and how do we get committed Mindanawons 40 years below to take an active role in such a movement?” Gaspar asked.

Since MinDA was set up, he said, “it has not gone beyond its identity as a PGMA (Gloria Arroyo)–initiated effort that merely echoes those of the Opamin-MEDCo clique, meaning that the dominant stakeholders have been mainly those of the State and LGUs, its military machinery and business corporations promoting global money-making schemes with very little concern for the hoi polloi. If left to the same discourses and practices popular in the Ramos and Arroyo administrations, the MinDA will continue to languish in a situation of irrelevance insofar as the ordinary folks are concerned. What a waste of resources that would be!”

“For many of us, Mindanao has been in our hearts. For decades now, we’ve labored in various ways for peace and development in Mindanao. There have been times, I’ve pondered: have we been able to contribute even a tiny bit to a lasting, sustainable peace and development in Mindanao-Sulu? Where did we have little successes? If not, where did we go wrong or how come our efforts have had so little impact?” Gaspar asked.

He said some “did try to connect with the State and its possibilities of making a difference in the lives of the marginalized mainly through collaboration with LGUs and good-willed people in State government machineries.”

But he asked, “Is this worth pursuing? Can we afford to take the long-term posture that unless there are radical structures that take place in our society, we only waste our time and energy in collaborating with a bankrupt – very weak -State apparatus?”

“If we are convinced it is worth investing in the new administration of P-Noy – as there might be no other viable option for us today – shouldn’t we engage the MinDA? Any bright idea we could begin to share?” Gaspar asked.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)