ARMM governor tells civil society to shift attention to ‘absentee mayors’

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/17 April) – If he could have his way, acting Gov. Mujib S. Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao would “want to be out of the public knife.”

In a 35-minute speech marking his 100 days in office late Monday afternoon, Hataman called on the civil society organizations (CSO) pushing for reforms in the impoverished region to look away from him, stressing that transparency and accountability has become a mark of his fledging administration.

“To those who are watching the ARMM, take your eyes away from me. Set your sights on the local government units…to the mayors that don’t report to office” he said in Filipino.

At least 1,000 people, or half the usual crowd in the addresses of previous regional governors, gathered at the ARMM government compound. Hataman attributed the smaller attendance to the absence of private armies of politicians.

Half of the local chief executives did not come because armed bodyguards could not come inside the gated compound, the governor said.

Bodyguards lugging high-powered firearms normally scattered around the ARMM compound in the past administrations.

In urging the CSOs to be more watchful of the LGUs, Hataman noted that many local chief executives in Maguindanao could be found enjoying in Davao City and those in Lanao del Sur in Cagayan de Oro City instead of performing their functions at the office.

In a press conference later, Hataman clarified that he does not want the watchful eyes of CSOs totally out from him.

Hadji Murshid Mascud, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society-Kutawato Regional Management Committee chairperson, said they would not relent on their watch on Hataman.

“We will continue to watch over him, and the LGUs too,” he told MindaNews, noting they focused on Hataman for his first 100 days in office.

Mascud, however, declined to confirm if it is “normal practice” for many mayors in the ARMM, as Hataman claimed, not to report to office.

Civil society can uncover this and other anomalies if the focus is also given to the LGUs, Mascud said.

He added their group is generally “satisfied with the performance” of Hataman for the past 100 days.

Transparent and accountable governance under him was a bit more open than those governors before him, said Mascud.

He, however, said the ARMM per se is not the solution to the Bangsamoro issue but just a stepping stone to greater autonomy.

But Mascud lauded Hataman for fighting corruption, citing the anomalies that were uncovered at the Department of Education involving ghost teachers, schools and even students.

On the delivery of basic services, he said that Hataman has to work harder so the constituents of ARMM could feel the hands of government.

“Basic services are reaching the people but not in full swing as the line agencies [have to deliver more],” he said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)