ARMM caretakers “must be ghostbusters”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/31 July) – “Ghostbusters!”

The officers in charge (OICs) who will be appointed by President Benigno Simeon Aquino to   administer the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from September 30, 2011 to June 30, 2013 must be “ghostbusters”  as they need to bust ghost teachers, ghost schools, ghost towns,  Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, said.

“What you need as OICs actually are ghostbusters” to put an end to “ghost bridges, ghost scools, ghost teachers, ghost employees, ghost governance,” Mercado said. The use of public funds for ghost projects has been a common complaint against the 21-year old regional government.
Mercado told a roundtable discussion on the “Roadmap for Reforms in the ARMM” organized by IAG at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City afternoon of July 28, that what should be communicated by the caretaker administration is that it will no longer be “business as usual” in the ARMM.

“If it will be business as usual, you are sending the wrong message,” he said.

Borrowing from President Aquino’s use of  “wangwang” to describe abuse of power,  Mercado the OICs should ensure there will be “no wangwang in governance.”

He said the OICs “must adopt a new work ethics.”  Leadership, he added,  must be by stewardship and not by entitlement, that perks of public offices and public representation be done away with and that the caretakers must focus on improving the human development indicators in the ARMM.


Among the incumbent ARMM officials, Mercado cited Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo who “reports in his office by 8:30 or 9 o clock everyday,” does his work and visits projects.
ARMM Vice Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong assumed the post of  OIC Governor in mid-December 2009, following the detention of  Governor Zaldy Ampatuan who is one of the principal suspects in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.


Sinarimbo has been the face of the ARMM since. Like his predecessor governors, Alonto, who is from Lanao del Sur, is rarely seen at the ARMM regional office in Cotabato City.


Mercado said the OICs must ensure that “farm to market roads” are, indeed, farm to market roads. “No more roads to my farms,” he said.


The OICs must also tend to the peace and security of the citizens, “not (just) my security and my peace,” referring to the use of policemen as escorts of public officials when they should be doing police work in their communities.


He said a number of things “can be done in the first 100 days and can go very far, something similar to ‘no more wangwang, no more counteflow.’ This time now no wangwang in governance.”


President Aquino in his State of the Nation Address on July 25, was silent on the peace process, Reproductive Health Bill  and Freedom of Information Act, but gave four paragraphs out of his 95-paragraph speech, to talk about the ARMM.

He said the Commision on Audit found that from January 2008 to September 2009, 80% of the disbursements in the Office of the Regional Governor of the ARMM went to cash advances without proper documentation.

“Kung hindi nawala ang pondong ito, nakatapos na sana ang isang batang tumawid sa ghost bridge, para pumasok sa ghost school, kung saan tuturuan siya ng ghost teacher. Kaawa awang bata. Walang humpay na paghihirap, at walang pag-asa ng pag-asenso,” he said.

The President meant, in English, that if the funds had been used properly, these could have been used for the education of children in the ARMM. Instead, the money went to corruption, as exemplified by ghost bridges, ghost schools and ghost teachers.   (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)