Finally, a CHR office in ARMM

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/04 May)—After 22 years, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has set up an office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

CHR chairperson Rosetta Ann P. Rosales led Thursday the opening of the CHR-ARMM at the regional government compound in Cotabato City.

Atty. Laisa Alamia was appointed as director of CHR-ARMM. She took her oath on Wednesday before Rosales and Commissioners Jose Manuel Mamauag, Coco Quisumbing and Norberto dela Cruz on May 3 at the Conference Room of the Office of the Regional Governor  in Cotabato City.

The CHR regional office, set up by the national body, was inaugurated on the same day, at the JICA Building behind the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex in the ORG Compound

Rosales vowed to uphold human rights in the autonomous Muslim region not just by CHR standards “but also in the context of the rich cultural tradition of the Moro and indigenous peoples (lumads)” in the area.

“The CHR will uphold the rights of the indigenous and Moro peoples in the ARMM in the context of their rich culture and history of struggle for human development,” she was quoted as saying by the ARMM Bureau of Public Information.

Rosales said acting ARMM Gov. Mujiv S. Hataman sought the establishment of a CHR office in the region, which groups the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Hataman was appointed caretaker of the ARMM last December with the deferment of the regional elections in August to the 2013 midterm polls.

He stressed earlier that human development in the region had been stunted by poverty rooted in alleged massive corruption within the ARMM bureaucracy.

Rosales said that ARMM has a rich historical experience in their struggle for socio-economic, cultural and political development.

She cited the United Nations Covenant on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in vowing to uphold the observance of human rights in the context of a culturally diverse ARMM society.

ARMM Executive Secretary Anwar Malang, a human rights lawyer, said the establishment of a CHR office in the region is long overdue.

Rosales said putting up the CHR-ARMM unit is “a dream come true” that she, Hataman and President Benigno Simeon Aquino III “had shared in common since they first met as lawmakers in the House of Representatives.”

Massive displacements of people and communities have marred the autonomous Muslim region with the rebellion waged by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is now holding peace talks with the government.

The region is also home to political warlords.

On 23 November 2009, a total of 58 people were killed in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao in what is considered the worst election-related violence in the country’s history. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)