July 21, 2019
MAGUINDANAO: Terrorism and corruption were the two main concerns discussed when Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana met top officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) recently.
Lorenzana has ordered security forces to finish off the pro-Islamic State (IS) group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province. He asked local officials to help fight violent Islamic extremism.
“We need to finish them off, we need to do it now,” he said during a meeting Thursday with the governors of the Muslim autonomous region led by Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim.
Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said the provincial government and all 19 municipal mayors were fully supportive of the campaign against the militant group blamed for the twin suicide bombings of the Our
Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo town in January that left dozens of casualties, and for two suicide attacks on an army base in Indanan town that killed eight people and wounded over two dozens more.
Ebrahim said they were addressing the security situation in the Muslim region, especially in Sulu and Basilan, where the Abu Sayyaf is actively operating.
Tan, the most vocal of all the governors, also appealed to the regional and national governments to help local officials address poverty in Sulu, which he said was one of the reasons behind violent Islamic extremism ideologies.
The military has confirmed that one of the two bombers in Indanan town was a local member of the Abu Sayyaf, Norman Lacusa.
Wilfred Nasol, regional director of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency in the Muslim autonomous region, briefed local officials on the 50-year-old communist insurgency problems and pro-IS groups and terrorists operating in the country. He outlined the government’s response to these threats, especially in addressing Islamic extremism ideology and adapting the so-called National Peace Framework.
Nasol was referring to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70, which he signed in December last year, establishing a “whole-of-nation approach” in ending communist armed conflict through the creation of a national task force that will take the lead in institutionalizing a national peace framework to attain inclusive and sustainable peace through various initiatives.
The whole-of-nation approach, Nasol said, was essential for this peace framework to become workable, effective and beneficial.
During the meeting, Tan also exposed widespread corruption in the government’s poverty alleviation program called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps, where thousands of fake beneficiaries were reportedly receiving payout, in cahoots with some unscrupulous officials.
He urged the government to investigate and revalidate the lists of beneficiaries in different towns of Sulu.
Aside from Sulu, there were also complaints in Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao. One villager in Tawi-Tawi’s Bongao town alleged that many 4Ps beneficiaries there were not even entitled to receive such benefits and had asked the government to investigate the scam.
Another complainant claimed that many beneficiaries had not received their conditional cash grants for more than a year now.
In Maguindanao province, a woman complained that their village leaders were pocketing the cash grants intended for the poor.
Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao are under the Muslim autonomous region. Ebrahim said they had taken steps address allegations of corruption.
The 4Ps provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor to improve the health, nutrition and the education of children aged 0 to 18.
A household or beneficiary receives P500 per month. Every monitored child in elementary receives P300 as education grant and P500 for those in high school.
The program also provides P600 a month, or P7,200 per year, as rice subsidy for each family.
Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Pangalian Balindong trumpeted the accomplishments of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, saying eight bills had been passed and most of these were measures to streamline the operation of the regional government.
Balindong announced that a “regulated anti-dynasty bill” would soon be passed and this would be discussed with the region’s five governors and Ebrahim. Many political clans currently rule in the Muslim autonomous region.
The other governors who attended the meeting were Jim Salliman of Basilan, Mamintal Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur, Mariam Mangudadatu of Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi Board member Madi Tidal, who represented Gov. Ysmael Sali.
The meeting was also attended by Vicente Agdamag, deputy director general of the National Security Council; Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the Western Mindanao Command; Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, chief of the 6th Infantry Division; Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano; Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez; and senior military and police officials.
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