From the Manila Times (Feb 7): Mindanao towns with no IRA helpless against BIFF
Local officials of towns without internal revenue allotments (IRA) said they were unable to address the insurgency problem in two military-liberated villages in Maguindanao.
At a press conference organized by the Philippine Army’s Sixth Infantry Division on February 2, a representative of the mayor of Shariff Saidona Mustapha town caught the attention of journalists when she admitted their helplessness in the face of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) guerillas in their community.
She said they learned about the BIFF encampment and operations in Barangay Ganta but could not take action because “we do not have IRA.”
Shariff Saidona Mustapha is one of eight towns in Maguindanao created by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional legislature in 2005 at the behest of the then ruling Ampatuan political clan. The seven others are the towns of Datu Salibo, Datu Hofer Ampatuan, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Mangudadatu, Pan–dag, Datu Blah Sinsuat, and Northern Kabuntalan.
Because the eight towns lack the minimum population of 25,000 required under the Local Government Code of 2001, the national government refuses to provide them with IRA.
At the seventh founding anniversary of Mangudadatu town on January 28, Rep. Sajid Mangudadatu of second district announced he would push for the lowering of the population requisite to 15,000 for the eight towns to qualify for IRA subsidies.
The eight towns subsist on donations from higher government units, said the solon who was the mayor of Pandag before winning a seat in Congress in the 2013 elections.
Mangudadatu said he had asked the representatives of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the 15-member Transition Commission to include the provision in the draft of the Bangsamoro region’s basic law.
Soldiers backed by arrest warrants-serving cops captured the main camp of the BIFF at Barangay Ganta in Shariff Saidona Mustapha, Maguindanao, and occupied Reyna Regente of the same town after the January 27 to 31 “surgical” offensives.
The military said the offensives left 52 rebels, two civilians and a soldier slain, and 59 guerillas with some troops and civilians including two journalists wounded. Some 10,000 residents were displaced and are being served by relief teams from Maguindanao and the ARMM.
Frankly, while we do not appreciate much the actuation of those who opposed it, for whatever reasons, because it paved the way for war to visit us once again, but that was more than five years ago already. To the MILF, the rejection of the MOA-AD by the Supreme Court as “unconstitutional” is just part of history that we have to draw lessons from time to time in our continuing search for peace and solution to the Bangsamoro Question in Mindanao. Today and the future are more important.
It is on this frame that we appeal to leaders of government, academe, church, business, and civil society organizations to close together so that the MOA-AD debacle will not happen anymore. So much good will, time, and efforts have been invested by all of us that warranted the support of the United Nations, the United States, Switzerland, The United Kingdom, and Japan. (The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is yet to issue a statement of support for the signing of the last Annex of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)). We make sure that this time we will not fail, God willing!
Out of respect, we will not mention the names, except one, of those who opposed the MOA-AD in 2008. The truth is that currently we have started to reach out to them and convey the message that it is good for all and this country that peace shall dwell amongst us. Most if not all of them whom we talked to are responding very well; in fact, they are offering the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) valuable advices on how the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) gets the support of the people.
Indeed, it is time leaders of men in this country show statesmanship in the resolution of the armed conflict in Mindanao. The issue of peace is not a partisan discourse. Everybody has to support it, because when there is real peace everybody benefits.
On its part, the MILF is already showing its ultimate sacrifice in order to achieve peace in our midst. It agrees to undertake graduated decommissioning of its firearms (and combatants). While there is no element of surrender in the act and there are no firearms turned over to the “enemy” but to a third party body composed of three foreign experts and four local experts, but once the MILF decommissions its firearms, they are gone forever.
It is on this premise that we also appeal to former mayor and now congressman Celso Lobregat of Zamboanga City to support the peace process between the GPH and the MILF. He has everything to gain in supporting it and everything to lose in opposing it. He is the only one virtually speaking of war when everybody speaks of peace.
Congressman Lobregat, please show that you are also for peace and leader of all men, irrespective of religion, tribes, and station in life. Zamboanga City is for all of us!