By Ali G. Macabalang
BULUAN, Maguindanao – A strong education foundation is imperative in ensuring the success of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
This was pointed out by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu in his speech for the grand opening here on Thursday of the province’s Third Inaul Festival.
“High illiteracy rate continues to be a setback practically in all communities that would constitute the new autonomous region (BARMM),” Mangudadatu said before thousands of Maguindanaons who were also celebrating the successful conduct of two plebiscites that were required in the creation of BARMM.
A plebiscite last January 26 ratified that Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), thereby, formally setting the motion for the creation of BARMM, while another electoral process was held last February 6 to determine what other areas will be included in the jurisdiction of the new Moro entity.
Mangudadatu maintained that “on the other side of our jubilation lies the challenge to build a firm education base in the regional autonomy.”
ARMM presently covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur including Marawi City, Basilan including Lamitan City, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces. BARMM will have bigger territory since Cotabato City and 61 villages in North Cotabato voted for inclusion in the Jan. 21 and Feb. 6 plebiscites, respectively.
Maguindanao’s electorate, which produced that largest chunk of ratifying votes, has even authorized Mangudadatu through the provincial peace and order council (PPOC) to seek intervening representation to the Supreme Court for the dismissal of two pending petitions, seeking the nullification of BOL.
Mangudadatu, through legal counsel Israelito Torreo, filed on Wednesday an 88-page Motion for Leave of Court to Intervene, and to Admit Comment-in-Intervention with the SC regarding the petitions filed by Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan II and the Philippine Constitution Association.
In his Thursday’s Festival opening speech here, the governor noted that Maguindanao and other prospective components of the new regional autonomy will “exert utmost efforts in ensuring that BARMM operations will be more fruitful that ARMM.”
“As far as Maguindanao is concerned, we have launched as early as eight years ago local education programs that offer all-expense scholarships from kindergarten up to post-graduate studies four our constituents, giving priority to the children of Moro rebels,” Mangudadatu said.
The Maguindanao Program on Education Assistance and Community Empowerment (MagPEACE) has already covered close to 8,000 collegiate and post-graduate students, and produced hundreds of baccalaureate graduates and dozens of alumni in advance studies in law and medicine, program handlers said.
Close to 500 children of poor households including families of combatants from the MILF and even the outlawed Bangasamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are now being covered under Maguindanao’s special education development, statistics from the office of the governor showed.