Citing lines from a song, Sec. Ismael Sueno of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) shared how he used to feel as a government official from Mindanao.
“Kami’y mga Muslim lamang, kami’y mga taga-Mindanao lamang,” he said. When he was faced with the prospect of leading his political party, he initially questioned if he had what it took to lead at the national level.
Much has changed since then.
“This same feeling has become a challenge to many of us,” Sueno said.
“We must prove to the entire nation that Mindanaons can perform as well, if not better, than our counterparts in Luzon and Visayas,” Sueno said as he addressed local executives from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) attending the 3rd ARMM Local Government Summit.
The two-day summit was held in the SMX Convention Center, Davao City.
“Pagkamulat… Pagbabago, Pag-unlad” was the theme for the said event, highlighting the importance of raising awareness about the region.
Sueno noted the negative perception outsiders have regarding communities in the ARMM. When it comes to discussions about the region, outsiders usually “worry” about governance.
But noting reforms in the region in recent years, especially the marked absence of ghost projects, he said that “transparent, accountable, and moral governance” is present in the ARMM.
The secretary said that cooperation of local executives on peace and order initiatives is perceived by people outside the ARMM as a concern, especially with regard to lawless elements.
The national government, however, believes that governors and mayors in the ARMM can face these challenges, Sueno said.
The LGUs, he noted, are strong partners against lawless elements in the region.
The national and local government’s joint success against lawlessness depends on the “willpower of leaders,” Sueno said.
Sueno also mentioned that a number of the poorest provinces are found in the ARMM, and that the president wants to help uplift the quality of life in these areas.
“If we are to implement projects in ARMM, I will be the project manager in ARMM. Let us implement projects there,” Sueno quotes Duterte as saying.
The president has even proposed a trip to Jolo, Sulu to his cabinet members, if only to help dispel negative perceptions on the ARMM.
Despite the recent incident in Marawi, Sueno mentioned that the president insists on pushing through with his scheduled visits in Mindanao and that this is a sign of the president’s commitment to the region.
Model for other regions
The DILG has earlier hosted a national event tagged as Sulong Pilipinas: LGU Consultations on Peace and Order, and Social Development. However, Sueno intends to conduct LGU consultations at the regional level and to use the ARMM LGU Summit as a model.
“We have seen Gov. Hataman’s sincerity in his desire to conduct this consultation, and how strongly he wants to battle negative perceptions against the ARMM,” Sueno said.
“We will also do this for other regions,” he added. (Bureau of Public Information)