Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Widows see hope in RP’s 1st female Moro executive

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Thousands of Moro mothers and women widowed in the decades-old Mindanao war are hopeful of better government attention through the infant National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCFW), to which President Gloria Arroyo installed recently a female administration.

Sakina, a 55-year widow, said she and her 6 half-orphaned children are optimistic of "priority attention" from NCFW chairwoman Bai Omeira Dimakuta Dianalan-Lucman, who has been in the forefront of women empowerment advocacy.

“We see brighter prospects in the appointment of Lucman in the NCFW, she being a woman expected to understand better the plight of hapless mothers like me,” Sakina said.

Sakina said her “freedom fighting” husband died in gunfight with soldiers in Maguindanao six years ago, forcing her children to stop schooling and become virtual street mendicants if not susceptible to recruitment to Moro rebellion.

The Mindanao armed conflict, which started in early 1970s notably between state forces and Moro rebels, has already reportedly left more than 200,000 people slain and scores others maimed. Several thousands of housewives like Sakina have been widowed and three-folds more children orphaned in the process.

Jamila, another war-widowed Moro housewife from Lanao del Sur province, said the NCMF should serve as an avenue for the government to alleviate the plight of families that have suffered from the havoc of war in Mindanao.

“The government has not been attending to our miserable lives. We could only wish that the NCMF with its pioneer female leadership would turn our dream into reality,” said Jamila, who has been engaged in a sidewalk retailing business to feed her three kids after the loss of her husband in the 2000 all-out war in Mindanao.

Lucman’s recent appointment as pioneer chairperson of NCFW made her the country’s first woman to head a national agency tasked to serve the welfare of the nation’s estimated 11 million Muslim populace.

The defunct Ministry of Muslim Affairs and the succeeding Office on Muslim Affairs had been ruled by over a dozen of male executives until the dissolution of the latter agency under Republic Act 9997, which president Arroyo signed into law on February 18 to establish the NCMF.

Among the past heads of OMA was former Ambassador Dr. Alibasher Lucman, the husband of the NCMF’s first administrator, who assumed office last March 26.

Various groups from the academic, religious, traditional, youth, business and women sectors have welcomed Lucman’s pioneer leadership of the NCMF, describing it as a breakthrough in the increasing call for women empowerment in government affairs.

Even members of the media in Mindanao have painted rosy prospects for the NCMF under Lucman, who has earlier served government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Cooperative Development Authority, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in national capacities.

Philippine Council on Islam and Democracy (PCID) lead convenor Amina Rasul also lauded President Arroyo for installing Lucman to the NCMF, which she hoped could “really do something” for the underserved Muslims communities in the country.

Last Sunday, Lucman acknowledged the “valuable supports” of religious groups like the Ulama League of the Philippines and the Bishops-Ulama Conference through ULP president Judge Aboali Cali and Dr. Hamid Barra for endorsing her strongly to the NCMF top position, which is a cabinet-rank slot.

In her first 100 days in office, Lucman said, she would push for the prompt fleshing out of the transformational structure of the NCMF from the defunct OMA in order to ensure a “solid foundation for improved services for Muslim Filipinos.”

The NCMF was created through Republic Act 9997 signed by President Arroyo on February 18, replacing effectively the 23-year-old OMA.

Under the law, NCMF also has eight slots for commissioners representing different Muslim sectors which the President filled up with maiden appointees.

Appointed as commissioners are Alladin I. Ampatuan (Maguindanao), Solaiman C. Mutia (Lanao del Norte), Hatimil E. Hassan (Basilan), and Raida B. Maglangit (women sector), former mayor of Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur.

The four others are Mufti Jaafar (Tawi-Tawi), Moner M. Bajunaid (Maguindanao), Atty. Edilwasif Baddiri (Sulu, youth sector), and Aleem Sharief Julasiri Abirin (Sulu, ulama sector). (Ali G. Macabalang)

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