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D1 The Manila Times The Moro Times FRIDAY April 27, 2007 D ETERMINED to erase the negative percep- tion of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Min- danao (ARMM) as the “cheating capital” of the country, a dozen Muslim non-government organiza- tions and the Parish Pasto- ral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) got to- gether in Davao City last April 2 and 3 and signed a memorandum of agree- ment (MOA) which pro- vided for the merging and sharing of resources in the May 2007 elections and “establish(ing) a single net- work of volunteer moni- tors and watchers which shall take the lead in moni- toring, watching and can- vassing of votes in the ARMM region (Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sharif Kabungsuan, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Basilan).” Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, chairperson of PPCRV, hailed it as an important land- mark in Philippine elections. She said that this is the first time that a comprehensive interfaith effort has been mounted to ensure clean elections. Ambassador De Villa said that “this is a good ex- ample of how we, as a nation, can move past our differences and focus on what we have in common: the interest of our country.” In previous elections, individual organizations have carried out poll-watching activi- ties in ARMM. This is the first time that these separate activi- ties are rationalized into one con- certed effort among the different organizations. Ms. Amina Rasul, Lead Convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democ- racy (PCID), stressed the signifi- cance of the effort to ensure clean elections in the context of strengthening democracy in Muslim communities. She Muslims Unite for Clean Elections GUARDING THE POLLS. Representatives from 12 Muslim organizations are shown here with PPCRV Chair Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, (4th from right) and PCID Lead Convenor Ms. Amina Rasul (5th from left). The group signed a memorandum of agreement that unifie their efforts to ensure clean and honest election in may 2007. added that the success of this endeavor can become a model for other areas in the country. Aside from PCID and PPCRV, the memorandum of agreement was signed by other organiza- tions in ARMM namely: the Citi- zens Coalition for ARMM Elec- toral Reforms, Inc. (C-CARE); Concerned Alliance of Profes- sors and Students, Inc. (CAPS); Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS); Electoral Reform Advocates (ERA); Maguindanao Foundation for Good Governance and Develop- ment, Inc. (MFGGDI); Maranao People Development Center (MARADECA, Inc.); Muslim Mindanao Consumers Associa- tion, Inc. (MMCA); Muslim Women Peace Advocates – Sulu Council (MWPA); Sulu State College Master in Public Admin- istration Alumni Association, Inc. (SSC-MPA-A, Inc.); Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc. (TLS); United Youth for Peace and Develop- ment, Inc. (UNYPAD). The workshop, held at the Grand Men Seng Hotel through the assistance of The Asia Foun- dation (TAF), featured a discus- sion on effective poll-watching conducted by the PPCRV coun- sel Atty. Howard Calleja. The different organizations also agreed to set up coordinating groups in each of the provinces of ARMM to manage the net- working with the PPCRV whose operations rely heavily on its dioceses. Darul Ifta issues khutba for clean elections An additional signatory to the MOA was the Assembly of Darul Ifta of the Philippines— the biggest and most influen- tial group of Muslim religious leaders in Southern Philip- pines. The Darul Ifta, through Mufti Abdula Hamja Utoh, signed the agreement in simple ceremonies held in Zamboanga City last April 26. Also in at- tendance were Amb. De Villa, Bro. Clifford Sorita and former Senator Santanina Rasul. This was done in the wake of a khutba (see full text on page 2) issued by the ARMM muftis calling for the Muslims to strengthen their resolve to push for meaningful peaceful reforms. The statement like- wise asserted that peaceful re- forms redounding to the gen- eral welfare “constitute a Jihad in its highest form”. In a defining moment, the muftis (Islamic jurists) issued a statement denouncing the use of the Holy Kor’an to bribe voters and election officials. The muftis highlighted rel- evant verses of the Koran and sayings of the Prophet Muham- mad, including one that says: “The one who gives bribe and the one who accepts it (in chang- ing) a judgment, are both cursed by Allah.” Ustadz Esmael Ebrahim, spokesperson for the Assembly of Dar’ul Ifta (House of Opinion) said this was the main reason muftis are urging voters in Basilan, Lanao Sur, Maguin- danao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi “to (exercise their) inherent right in seeking reforms through all peaceful means available, including the right to cast vote and to protect that right as a matter of duty and responsibility of a Muslim.” The one-page statement, enti- tled “Fairness, Accountability and Transformation for the Wel- fare of ARMM” was signed in Zamboanga City on March 29. The muftis exhorted the faith- ful: “O, Muslims! Rise above this sarcastic perception that the ARMM is the Philippines’ cheat- ing capital for elections; rise against the cheaters’ expectation that electoral fraud in ARMM has been a commercial transac- tion of a few people.” Continuing Efforts As part of this continuing effort to protect the integrity of the electoral process in ARMM, an election forum was also held in Jolo, Sulu last April 25 organized by PCID, the Muslim Women Peace Advocates of Sulu (MWPA), Tulong Lupa Sug (TLS), and the Sulu State College Master in Public Administration Alumni Association, Inc. (SSC- MPA-A, Inc.). COMELEC Com- missioner Rene Sarmiento and Amb. De Villa flew to join forces with more than 20 additional civil society organizations who have decide to join MUSCLE. Commissioner Sarmiento, Com- missioner in charge of ARMM Sarmiento, spoke during the conference on the need to ensure clean elections especially in the ARMM and highlighted the interfaith character of the initia- tive. Sarmiento lauded the ef- forts of the different civil society groups in Muslim Mindanao to ensure honest elections. PPCRV Chair de Villa, en- couraged by the 170 partici- pants during the Jolo confer- ence, conducted a briefing in the afternoon with the volun- teers. Muslim organizations that have been accredited by PPCRV will be authorized to monitor the elections. Mercia Alli, MWPA Secretary General, encouraged her fellow Tausug to rise up to the chal- lenge issued by the muftis to safeguard the electoral process. THE Embassy of Australia in the Philippines and the Magbassa Kita Foundation Inc signed an agree- ment last March 28 that would provide support for the research program of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy. The PCID provides the content for the The Moro Times, a monthly sup- plement of The Manila Times which appears dur- ing the last Friday of the month. The first issue came out in July 2006. The agreement was signed by Australian Ambas- sador Tony Hely and PCID Lead Convenor Amina Rasul. Rasul said, “The grant from the Australian government will go a long way to assist Muslims present a wholistic picture of the situation in Mus- lim Mindanao, educate the majority on Muslim is- sues and support the advocacy of Muslims for peace, development and democracy”. The grant was provided through the Strength- ening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Under- standing (SGIDU) Program of the embassy. Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, HE Tony Hely, said that “the Embassy is proud to be supporting this important work of presenting bal- anced and diverse stories on issues affecting the Muslim community in the Philippines. We hope the Moro Times, through its reporting, can also en- courage greater fostering of interfaith dialogue, particularly at the grassroots level.” DR. KIM HOWELLS, Member of Parliament and Minister of State of the United Kingdom, gave a speech at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila last April 11. Howells dialogued with Muslim leaders on the cur- rent cultural, political, and se- curity issues that confront both East and West in the post 9/11 and 7/7 events. The UK envoy was wel- comed by Mosque Adminis- trator Ansari Ali, Office on Muslim Affairs NCR Director Mohammad Tanggote and a number of Muslim officials. Among them were: Senator Santanina Rasul, Datu Toto Paglas, General Mohammad Benjamin Dolorfino, Alim Elias Macarandas and a host of imams from mosques around Metro Manila. Accompanying Howells was British Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Colin Crorkin, and Sarah Hulton, Second Secretary. Dr. Howells was in Manila for a one-day visit that focused on engagement with the Muslim world. He began the day with a series of discussions on issues of bilateral interest with top Philippine government offi- cials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Alberto Romulo. UK- RP co-operation on security and counter-terrorism was the sub- ject of talks with the Depart- ment of National Defence whilst discussion with the Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process focused on effec- tive means to foster peace and wider inter-faith dialogue and understanding. Chargé d’Affaires Crorkin expressed his appreciation for the openness and support that the British Embassy has re- ceived from leaders of various faiths in the Philippines, and particularly the Muslim com- munity. He said: “Their commitment to dialogue and our shared mission of enhancing peace and understanding between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao is a high priority for the UK government. This is why it has featured promi- nently in the Minister’s pro- gramme. The visit is taking place in an environment of co- operation and a desire to learn from our joint experiences in peace building.” UK Envoy Visits the Golden Mosque in Manila Australian Embassy and PCID Sign Partnership Agreement Australian Ambassador Tony Hely, and PCID Lead Convenor Amina Rasul, pose for a picture with Fred dela Rosa, the Australian Embassy and the Moro Times staff after the signing of the agreement on research program. UK Foreign Minister of State Dr. Kim Howells MP (second from left) was greeted by Muslims in Manila Golden Mosque in Quiapo. Left to right: Mack A. Macalanggan, Golden Mosque Administrator Ansari Ali, Dr. Kim Howells, British Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Colin Crorkin, Alim Elias A. Macarandas, Datu Ibrahim “ToTo” Paglas, former senator Santanina T. Rasul, and Baibonn Sangib
Transcript
Page 1: The Manila Times The Moro Times D1 - Muslim Mindanao Times/2007/moro times april 27 2007.pdfThe Manila Times The Moro Times D1 FRIDAY April 27, 2007 D ... Lupah Sug, Inc. (TLS); ...

D1The Manila Times

The Moro TimesFRIDAYApril 27, 2007

DETERMINED to erasethe negative percep-

tion of the AutonomousRegion of Muslim Min-danao (ARMM) as the“cheating capital” of thecountry, a dozen Muslimnon-government organiza-tions and the Parish Pasto-ral Council for ResponsibleVoting (PPCRV) got to-gether in Davao City lastApril 2 and 3 and signed amemorandum of agree-ment (MOA) which pro-vided for the merging andsharing of resources in theMay 2007 elections and“establish(ing) a single net-work of volunteer moni-tors and watchers whichshall take the lead in moni-toring, watching and can-vassing of votes in theARMM region (Lanao delSur, Maguindanao, SharifKabungsuan, Tawi-Tawi,Sulu and Basilan).”

Ambassador Henrietta deVilla, chairperson of PPCRV,hailed it as an important land-mark in Philippine elections. Shesaid that this is the first time thata comprehensive interfaith efforthas been mounted to ensureclean elections. Ambassador DeVilla said that “this is a good ex-ample of how we, as a nation,can move past our differencesand focus on what we have incommon: the interest of ourcountry.” In previous elections,individual organizations havecarried out poll-watching activi-ties in ARMM. This is the firsttime that these separate activi-ties are rationalized into one con-certed effort among the differentorganizations. Ms. Amina Rasul,Lead Convenor of the PhilippineCouncil for Islam and Democ-racy (PCID), stressed the signifi-cance of the effort to ensure cleanelections in the context ofstrengthening democracy inMuslim communities. She

Muslims Unite for Clean Elections

■ GUARDING THE POLLS. Representatives from 12 Muslim organizations are shown here with PPCRV Chair Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, (4th from right)and PCID Lead Convenor Ms. Amina Rasul (5th from left). The group signed a memorandum of agreement that unifie their efforts to ensure clean and honestelection in may 2007.

added that the success of thisendeavor can become a modelfor other areas in the country.

Aside from PCID and PPCRV,the memorandum of agreementwas signed by other organiza-tions in ARMM namely: the Citi-zens Coalition for ARMM Elec-toral Reforms, Inc. (C-CARE);Concerned Alliance of Profes-sors and Students, Inc. (CAPS);Consortium of BangsamoroCivil Society (CBCS); ElectoralReform Advocates (ERA);Maguindanao Foundation forGood Governance and Develop-ment, Inc. (MFGGDI); MaranaoPeople Development Center(MARADECA, Inc.); MuslimMindanao Consumers Associa-tion, Inc. (MMCA); MuslimWomen Peace Advocates – SuluCouncil (MWPA); Sulu StateCollege Master in Public Admin-

istration Alumni Association,Inc. (SSC-MPA-A, Inc.); TulungLupah Sug, Inc. (TLS); UnitedYouth for Peace and Develop-ment, Inc. (UNYPAD).

The workshop, held at theGrand Men Seng Hotel throughthe assistance of The Asia Foun-dation (TAF), featured a discus-sion on effective poll-watchingconducted by the PPCRV coun-sel Atty. Howard Calleja. Thedifferent organizations alsoagreed to set up coordinatinggroups in each of the provincesof ARMM to manage the net-working with the PPCRV whoseoperations rely heavily on itsdioceses.

Darul Ifta issues khutbafor clean electionsAn additional signatory to theMOA was the Assembly of

Darul Ifta of the Philippines—the biggest and most influen-tial group of Muslim religiousleaders in Southern Philip-pines. The Darul Ifta, throughMufti Abdula Hamja Utoh,signed the agreement in simpleceremonies held in ZamboangaCity last April 26. Also in at-tendance were Amb. De Villa,Bro. Clifford Sorita and formerSenator Santanina Rasul. Thiswas done in the wake of akhutba (see full text on page 2)issued by the ARMM muftiscalling for the Muslims tostrengthen their resolve topush for meaningful peacefulreforms. The statement like-wise asserted that peaceful re-forms redounding to the gen-eral welfare “constitute a Jihadin its highest form”.

In a defining moment, the

muftis (Islamic jurists) issued astatement denouncing the use ofthe Holy Kor’an to bribe votersand election officials.

The muftis highlighted rel-evant verses of the Koran andsayings of the Prophet Muham-mad, including one that says:“The one who gives bribe andthe one who accepts it (in chang-ing) a judgment, are both cursedby Allah.”

Ustadz Esmael Ebrahim,spokesperson for the Assemblyof Dar’ul Ifta (House of Opinion)said this was the main reasonmuftis are urging voters inBasilan, Lanao Sur, Maguin-danao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Suluand Tawi-Tawi “to (exercisetheir) inherent right in seekingreforms through all peacefulmeans available, including theright to cast vote and to protect

that right as a matter of duty andresponsibility of a Muslim.”

The one-page statement, enti-tled “Fairness, Accountabilityand Transformation for the Wel-fare of ARMM” was signed inZamboanga City on March 29.The muftis exhorted the faith-ful: “O, Muslims! Rise above thissarcastic perception that theARMM is the Philippines’ cheat-ing capital for elections; riseagainst the cheaters’ expectationthat electoral fraud in ARMMhas been a commercial transac-tion of a few people.”

Continuing EffortsAs part of this continuing effortto protect the integrity of theelectoral process in ARMM, anelection forum was also held inJolo, Sulu last April 25 organizedby PCID, the Muslim WomenPeace Advocates of Sulu(MWPA), Tulong Lupa Sug(TLS), and the Sulu State CollegeMaster in Public AdministrationAlumni Association, Inc. (SSC-MPA-A, Inc.). COMELEC Com-missioner Rene Sarmiento andAmb. De Villa flew to join forceswith more than 20 additionalcivil society organizations whohave decide to join MUSCLE.Commissioner Sarmiento, Com-missioner in charge of ARMMSarmiento, spoke during theconference on the need to ensureclean elections especially in theARMM and highlighted theinterfaith character of the initia-tive. Sarmiento lauded the ef-forts of the different civil societygroups in Muslim Mindanao toensure honest elections.

PPCRV Chair de Villa, en-couraged by the 170 partici-pants during the Jolo confer-ence, conducted a briefing inthe afternoon with the volun-teers. Muslim organizationsthat have been accredited byPPCRV will be authorized tomonitor the elections.

Mercia Alli, MWPA SecretaryGeneral, encouraged her fellowTausug to rise up to the chal-lenge issued by the muftis tosafeguard the electoral process.

THE Embassy of Australia in the Philippines andthe MagbassaH Kita Foundation Inc signed an agree-ment last March 28 that would provideH supportfor the research program of the Philippine Councilfor Islam and Democracy.H The PCID provides thecontent for the The Moro Times, a monthly sup-plement of The Manila Times which appears dur-ing the last Friday of the month.H The first issuecame out in July 2006.

The agreement was signed by Australian Ambas-sador Tony Hely and PCID Lead Convenor AminaRasul.H Rasul said, “The grant from the Australiangovernment will go a long way to assist Muslimspresent a wholistic picture of the situation in Mus-lim Mindanao, educate the majority on Muslim is-sues and support the advocacy of Muslims forpeace, development and democracy”.H

The grant was provided through the Strength-ening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Under-standing (SGIDU) Program of the embassy.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, HETony Hely, said that “the Embassy is proud to besupporting this important work of presenting bal-anced and diverse stories on issues affecting theMuslim community in the Philippines. HWe hopethe Moro Times, through its reporting, can also en-courage greater fostering of interfaith dialogue,particularly at the grassroots level.”

DR. KIM HOWELLS, Memberof Parliament and Minister ofState of the United Kingdom,gave a speech at the GoldenMosque in Quiapo, Manila lastApril 11. Howells dialoguedwith Muslim leaders on the cur-rent cultural, political, and se-curity issues that confront bothEast and West in the post 9/11and 7/7 events.

The UK envoy was wel-comed by Mosque Adminis-trator Ansari Ali, Office onMuslim Affairs NCR DirectorMohammad Tanggote and anumber of Muslim officials.Among them were: SenatorSantanina Rasul, Datu TotoPaglas, General MohammadBenjamin Dolorfino, AlimElias Macarandas and a host ofimams from mosques around

Metro Manila. AccompanyingHowells was British EmbassyChargé d’Affaires ColinCrorkin, and Sarah Hulton,Second Secretary.

Dr. Howells was in Manila fora one-day visit that focused onengagement with the Muslimworld. He began the day witha series of discussions on issuesof bilateral interest with topPhilippine government offi-cials, including Foreign AffairsMinister Alberto Romulo. UK-RP co-operation on security andcounter-terrorism was the sub-ject of talks with the Depart-ment of National Defencewhilst discussion with thePresidential Advisor on thePeace Process focused on effec-tive means to foster peace andwider inter-faith dialogue and

understanding.Chargé d’Affaires Crorkin

expressed his appreciation forthe openness and support thatthe British Embassy has re-ceived from leaders of variousfaiths in the Philippines, andparticularly the Muslim com-munity.

He said: “Their commitmentto dialogue and our sharedmission of enhancing peaceand understanding betweenMuslims and Christians inMindanao is a high priority forthe UK government. This iswhy it has featured promi-nently in the Minister ’s pro-gramme. The visit is takingplace in an environment of co-operation and a desire to learnfrom our joint experiences inpeace building.”

UK Envoy Visits theGolden Mosque in Manila

Australian Embassy and PCID Sign Partnership Agreement

■ AustralianAmbassador

Tony Hely, andPCID Lead

Convenor AminaRasul, pose fora picture with

Fred dela Rosa,the AustralianEmbassy and

the Moro Timesstaff after thesigning of theagreement on

researchprogram.

■ UK Foreign Minister of State Dr. Kim Howells MP (second from left) was greeted by Muslims in Manila GoldenMosque in Quiapo. Left to right: Mack A. Macalanggan, Golden Mosque Administrator Ansari Ali, Dr. Kim Howells,British Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Colin Crorkin, Alim Elias A. Macarandas, Datu Ibrahim “ToTo” Paglas, formersenator Santanina T. Rasul, and Baibonn Sangib

Page 2: The Manila Times The Moro Times D1 - Muslim Mindanao Times/2007/moro times april 27 2007.pdfThe Manila Times The Moro Times D1 FRIDAY April 27, 2007 D ... Lupah Sug, Inc. (TLS); ...

D2The Manila Times

The Moro Times FRIDAYApril 27, 2007

Fred de la RosaPublisher and Editor in Chief

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Dante Francis M. Ang IIPresident and CEO

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Amina RasulEditor

Samira Gutoc-TomawisManaging Editor

Nasser ShariefAliyya SawadjaanEditorial Team

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Arnold B. MossChief CopyeditorBrian M. Afuang

Art Director

Telephone 524-5665 to 67Telefax 521-6897 • 521-6872

Subscription 528-1319

URL http://www.manilatimes.netE-mail [email protected]

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The Moro Times is published byManila Times monthly at 371 A.

Bonifacio Drive, Port Area,Manila, 1018

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T1-20, Governors PlaceCondominium, Shaw Blvd.,

Mandaluyong City

Telefax 532-6058E-mail [email protected]

The Manila Times

The Moro Times

Beatingthe Odds

The JihadistShahana Abdulwahid

OW did you win? Youare a Muslim and a

woman,” someone asked meafter the election results of thecountry’s supposed premieruniversity were released.

This remark echoed as I re-called my sleepless nights dur-ing the campaign period lastmonth. Like senatoriableJamalul Kiram, I have my res-ervations about running muchless winning in a predomi-nantly non-Muslim society.Much to the surprise of many, Iemerged as the first Muslim fe-male student leader to beelected University StudentCouncil chairperson of Univer-sity of the Philippines-Diliman.This feat is usually dominatedby males and non-Muslims. Inthe recent past, RommelRomato of Lanao emerged to beelected as the first Muslim everelected in this position.

Never did I entertain thethought of entering campus poli-tics until I was in my third year inundergraduate in the Universityof Philippines. Two years in cam-pus politics equipped me withnecessary skills to handle con-flicts, negotiate with various peo-ple and to serve the studentry.After my two years serving as col-lege representative and universitycouncilor, I was asked to run forthe position of chairperson. Thiswas one of the hardest decisions Ihad to make because the positionentailed a lot of responsibility andsacrifice. After months of ponder-

ing on the matter, I finally ac-cepted the offer.

The position is both a chal-lenge and a privilege. Admit-tedly, this is a great challenge toprove my worth as a Muslimand a woman. Also, this is aprivilege because it will be avenue to show that Muslims toocan do it. As people search forwhat epitomizes a Muslimwoman, it is a challenge for meto brave the odds of conform-ity. But I am ready to take on thechallenge. The mandate givenme will serve as my inspirationto further the cause of my con-stituents.

My hijab (head covering) is aconstant reminder of my faith.It serves as my strength as I

undertake the path of anotheryear of service. It takes determi-nation and principled stand todo it. But I am ready to face thehurdles that would come myway. Allah will not give us atask if we cannot do it.

What difference can I make?This question often serves asmy point of reflection as I com-mence my daily routine. In acommunity diverse in cultures,ideologies and lifestyles , Mus-lim minorities find space tohone their skills and to exploreother paths. Having finishedmy undergraduate degree inPhilosophy in the University ofthe Philippines and continuingmy graduate studies in IslamicStudies in the same university,I come to realize the significantrole of youth in taking part inshaping our identity as Muslim.We must make most out of lifein service to Allah.

Struggling for identity in thesociety, a Muslim can prove thathe too can be at par with others.Muslims have emerged trium-phant in various fields, all ofwhom helped uplift Muslim’sstatus in society. Some even ex-celled and created a totally newbreed of Muslim –more dynamicand assertive. This is a living tes-tament that Muslim can truly ex-cel as others. They have proven

their worth as they continue toseek other ways to contribute forthe uplift of our image as Mus-lim, as Bangsamoro.

With great power comes greatresponsibility. To whom muchis given, much is expected.These are the quotes which Ibelieve must serve as reminder.

As I humbly accept the chal-lenge to lead the Iskolar ngBayan in the University’s cen-tennial, I constantly seek guid-ance from Allah to give me thestrength to face the future chal-lenges.

(Abdulwahid , of Sama eth-nic grouping , from ZamboangaCity is now the chairperson-elect of the University StudentCouncil of UP Diliman).

In the Name of Allah, TheBeneficient, The Merciful

MEMBERS OF THE ASSEM-BLY OF THE DA’RUL IFTA OFTHE PHILIPPINES in the Au-tonomous Region in MuslimMindanao

Call for the Muslim People’sRight to Fairness, Accountabilityand Transformation for the Welfareof ARMM

Peace Processes of ReformsConstitute a JihadHWe, the muftis in the Autono-mous Region in MuslimMindanao, hereby assert thatpeaceful through which re-forms are achieved for goodgovernance or administrationof public affairs for general wel-fare constitute a Jihad in itshighest form.

Most unfortunately, however,the country’s Muslim commu-nity, notwithstanding the vastnatural resources of the Au-tonomous Region in MuslimMindanao (ARMM), has notbeen any richer with its realityof widespread poverty, risingilliteracy rate and increasingsocial and spiritual concernssuch as corruption, morality

and the reign, in our midst, ofhypocrisy.

O Muslims! Rise above thesarcastic perception that theARMM is the Philippines ’cheating capital for elections,”rise against the cheatersH expec-tation that electoral fraudulencein ARMM has been a commer-cial transaction of a few influ-ential people.H And would youforever tolerate the perennialuse of the Holy Qu’ran in can-didates oath to renounce vio-lence only during election in Is-lamic Sha’riah.

Under the banner of Islam’suniversal system, Allah callsupon you leaders and the peo-ple, saying:

H“Verily! Allah commandsthat you should render back thetrusts to those, to whom theyare due; and that when youjudge between men, you judgewith justice.H Verily how excel-lent is the teaching which He(Allah) gives you! Truly, Allahis Ever All Hearer” Qu’ran 4:58)

H“And (remember) when theLord of Ibrahim (Abraham) (i.e. Allah) tried him (certain)Commands, which he fulfilled.HHe (Allah) said (to him).H “Ver-ily, I am going to make you aleader (Prophet) of mankind.”Ibrahim includes not Zaliman(polythesis and wrong-doers)(Qu’ran 2:124)

HThe Prophet (peace be uponhim) said:

H“Verily, the leader amongyou is the vicegerent of Allah onthat community, he will protectthe rights of the wrongedamong the populace, if theleader judges justily he will re-ceive the reward of Allah andthe people should say thanks,while if the leader judges un-justly he is sure to receive theanger from Allah and the peo-ple must be enduring and pa-tient.”

“People who have chosen aleader, knowingly that againstwhom there is another (who is)better qualified to lead, then,indeed they have transgressedAllah and His Messenger andthe whole Muslim community.”

And: “Do not seek to be aruler, for if you are given au-

thority on your demand, thenyou will be held responsible forit; But if it is given to you with-out asking for it, then you willbe helped by Allah in it; If youever take an oath to do some-thing and later on you find thatsomething else is better, thenyou should make up your oathand choose which is better.”

“The one who gives bribeand the one who accepts it (inchanging) a judgment are bothcursed by Allah”.

We therefore enjoin uponyou, Muslims to settle for amoment of reflection and du’a(prayers) on the day you will becasting votes that you may beguided by these words from theHoly Qur’an and the Hadith ofthe Holy Prophet Muhammad(Peace be upon him);

SIGNED: ALIM SHAIF JULASIRI J. ABIRIN, Mufti of Sulu;ALIM KAMARUDIN M.BAULO, Acting Mufti ofMaguindanao; ALIMABDULLA HAMJA UTOH,Mufti of Basilan; ALIMMAHMOD S. POLANGI, Muftiof Lanao del Sur; ALIMABULWAHID A. INJU, Mufti ofTawi,Tawi

Khutba

Muftis call on Ummah: renounce electoralcheating and violence

As people search for what epitomizesa Muslim woman, it is a challenge forme to brave the odds of conformity.

THERE is a certain complex-ity to Sulu politics not

present in other areas. Likeother provinces in the Philip-pines, electoral cheating, buy-ing of votes and heated politi-cal contests are normal staplesin Sulu. What sets Sulu apartfrom the other provinces is theprominent role of the ArmedForces of the Philippines inSulu elections. This skewsgovernance in such a way thatpoliticians often defer to themilitary commander on theground. While such is good inmany ways, elected politiciansoften accept that the AFP is animportant constituency, ofteneven more important thantheir own people.

The AFP, however, is moreconcerned with its mandatewhich is to preserve peace andsecurity. In Sulu, such man-date means going after theAbu Sayyaf and sometimesthe MNLF. The most unfortu-nate thing is that the AFP doesnot concern itself with the fail-ure of governance of theelected politicians. As Gover-nor Ben Loong once com-plained, mayors are rarely intheir towns. Include the issueof corruption, maintenance ofarmed thugs, and you have amassive breakdown of the lo-cal government system. It istherefore a wonder how the

Ombudsman and the DILGcan suspend the Governor ofIloilo and Batangas and all theother mayors but fail to lookat provinces like Sulu, Basilan,Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao,and even the ARMM itselfwherein the salary of the pub-lic school teachers have beendelayed and unpaid for somemonths now.

The Governor and Mayorsof Sulu have been workingwith the AFP in stamping outthe Abu Sayyaf. At the heightof the ASG strength in 2001and 2002, I know of a particu-lar mayor that mobilized hisarmed group and operatedwith the Marines. The opera-tion involved pushing theASG to a particular area, leav-ing them trapped and encir-cled. When the mayor and hismen engaged the ASG and be-gan pushing them to the par-ticular, the expected Marineforces that was supposed toblocked exit areas were notthere. Thus, the operationfailed. The incident plantedsome doubts in the Mayor’shead that somehow there wasmore to the ASG than just a

band of bandits operating ontheir own.

The general rule is that gue-rillas do not have strongholds.There are exceptions though.The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka,the FARC in Colombia, theMILF before 2000, are some ofthe few exceptions that man-aged to have strongholds. It istherefore FALSE for Philippineand foreign media to bannerSulu and Basilan as AbuSayyaf strongholds. If you goto Basilan today, GovernorWahab Akbar reigns with hisown band of forces equippedwith very high powered weap-ons. There are no ASG campsor enclaves that are no-gozones to the AFP. In the early90s, as documented in MaritesDanguilen-Vitug’ s book Un-der the Crescent Moon, theASG camp was just locatedacross the Marines Camp. Thatwould have been the closestthat ASG had a stronghold. Itdoes not appear to be a flukethis time. The Armed Forces ofthe Philippines appears tohave killed Jainal Sali alsoknown as Abu Solaiman. Wehave been burned by manyAFP announcements so muchthat there is a tendency for await and see before believingthem. The body and the pic-ture, however, are the ultimateproof. It appears that the plan-

CommentaryEdilwasif Baddiri

Of Sulu Politics, the AFP and the ASGning and implementation ofthe current operation areworking to perfection. It re-mains to be seen whether theAFP will be successful in get-ting Radulan Sahiron akaCommander Putol andGumbahali Jumdail aka Doc-tor Abu. If those two leadersare captured or killed, thenSulu will certainly be cleanseof the remnants of the AbuSayyaf Group. Philippine andforeign media banner Sulu asan Abu Sayyaf stronghold.Such is far from the truth. IfSulu is anyone’s stronghold, itis that of the AFP and the lo-cal politicians. The AFP is allover the province with a tightgrip on all events. The localpoliticians hold sway overtheir turfs and rarely willother armed groups or eventhe Abu Sayyaf engage themin a fight. The ASG has neverfought, for instance, with theforces of Talipao MayorTambrin Tulawie or PatikulMayor Ismunlatiph Suhurieven though they roam in theirtowns. So, they may be presentin Sulu but the province isNOT their stronghold.

(Lawyer Edil Baddiri, a formerBoard Member of Sulu, is afounding convenor of the YoungMoro Professionals Network. Hehas a MPA from the KennedySchool of Government, Harvard)

[ L E T T E R T O T H E E D I T O R ]Moro Times is like a lookingglass (what you see is what youget). A stupendous phenom-enon! It tells stories to the localand foreign people, vivid andgenuine reflections about theplight of the Moro multitude.

HHence, consider it a new an-tidote, alternative or pabulumagainst skepticism, discrimina-tion, and prejudice towards us.I’m endorsing Moro Times toeverybody, Christians and Mus-lims alike.

HI think, only Moro writerscan give information accuratelyor write stories articulately atthe top to the bottom, internaland external affairs of Morolives, etc. for they have shared

the same blood, lifestyle, and

origin, as a whole culture.

Vernon B. PuenganPagadian City columnist/

correspondentmindanaobiznews and

www.minsunnews.com

THE United States will extend itsGEM program in the SouthernPhilippines, pledging an aidworth between $125 million to$145 million (roughly P7.1 billion)to further spur development inthe island.

Initially conceived as a five-yearprogram which would run from1996 through 2001, US Agency forInternational Development(USAid) subsequently decided

that the GEM program was sucha useful and effective effort that itwould continue the programthrough to the end of 2007.Raymond L. Edler, USAid super-visory regional contracting offic-ers, said they are looking for a con-tractor to implement the programacross Mindanao.

Interested contractors are givenuntil April 27 to submit their pro-posals for GEM’s phase 3 program.

The extended program will fo-cus on infrastructure develop-ment, with each project cost in thebarangay level pegged between$5,000 to $50,000, Edler said.

Regional impact projects willhave construction cost exceeding$50,000 up to $4 million, he added.

The GEM Phase 2 program,which focused on livelihood de-velopment, is winding up thisyear. Its contractor is Louis BergerGroup Phils., Inc.

Aside from the basic contract ofup to $145 million, the new five-year program is allocating $12million to $16 million for optionalcomponents.

The GEM program has beenUSAid’s “flagship” activity inMindanao since 1996, USAid said.

It is the largest and best knownof all the various USAid programsand activities in Mindanao. It is an“umbrella” program under whichUSAid is able to support a widerange of different activities inMindanao, all intended to contrib-ute to peace and development inMindanao.

A few years ago, US PresidentGeorge W. Bush committed $30million aid for Mindanao once thegovernment and the MILF forgea final peace deal.

Peace negotiation between thegovernment and the MILF, how-ever, is stalled by the contentiousancestral domain and territoryclaimed by the MILF.

Another 7.1 billion USpledge for the South

“H

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FRIDAYApril 27, 2007 The Moro Times

A British Embassy Manila-funded Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy project is looking forbright, self-starting university graduates with the ability to develop and manage a pioneering project,which mainly entails identification and organisation of different Ulama groups into one national direc-torate.

PROJECT MANAGER

The PROJECT MANAGER will:• Create and execute project work plans in accordance to the agreed budget, standards and schedules.• Manage the day-to-day operations of the project.• Identify tasks of and liaise with project assistant and Ulama regional co-ordinators.• Ensure prompt submission of Project Team deliverables to the British Embassy.• Provide regular written and oral progress reports to PCID and the British Embassy.• Provide overall direction in the organisation of the regional forums and the National Summit.

QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED:1. A university degree (masters an advantage) related to: Islamic studies, Philippine studies, or social sci-

ences.2. Three years of progressively responsible experience in managing peace and development projects, prefer-

ably in Mindanao.3. Strong project management and budget skills.4. Fluent in spoken & written English and Filipino. Fluency in Arabic, Visayan, Tausug &/or Maranao is an

advantage.5. Sufficient understanding of Islam & cultures in Muslim Mindanao.6. Willing and able to travel to different parts of Mindanao.

(This position will be for a one year renewable contract, with an initial 3 months probation.)

PROJECT/RESEARCH ASSISTANT

The PROJECT/RESEARCH ASSISTANT will:• Assist the project manager in the execution of project work plans.• Provide logistical support to project team in the preparation for forums and National Summit• Produce written, tabular and visual materials for reports, conference kits and presentations for forums and

National Summit• Collate requisite literature on relevant practices of organising Ulama groups as well as issues relevant to the

crafting of common positions, khutba, statements, etc.• Provide baseline data research on the different Philippine Ulama.• Prepare materials related to the project’s activities, including articles for publication, speeches, talking points,

press releases.

QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED:1. A university degree related to: Islamic studies, Philippine studies, or social sciences.2. At least two years of professional experience in working with peace and development projects, preferably in

Mindanao.3. Fluent in spoken and written English and Filipino. Fluency in Arabic, Visayan, Tausug and/or Maranao is an

advantage.4. Sufficient understanding of Islam & cultures in Muslim Mindanao.5. Strong research and co-ordination skills.

(This position will be for a one year renewable contract, with an initial 3 months probation.)

How to apply:

To apply please submit, in a short envelope, a copy of your CV (maximum 2 pages), 2 references, 1 passport sizephotograph and a hand-written letter explaining your suitability for this position to:

Philippine Council for Islam and DemocracyUnit 2D Tower 1 Governor’s Place,Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong, MM Philippines

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS WILL BE ON MAY 7, 2007

[ MUSLIMS ACROSS THE NATION ]A THREE-DAY TRAINERS’TRAINING activity in prepara-tion for the National YouthPeace Congress (NYPC) to beheld in August 9-14 at CotabatoCity was conducted by the Of-fice of the President, NationalYouth Commission in partner-ship with the Service for Peaceon April 19 – 21, 2007 at PonceSuites, Bajada, Davao City. Itwas attended by 25 partici-pants from Mindanao YoungLeaders’ Parliament (MYLP)Executive Board, NYC YouthVolunteers, NYC Staff headedby NYC Commissioner repre-senting Mindanao, Moham-mad Hanny Camid and SFPStaff headed by Ms. CarolineNiñonuevo, Executive Direc-tor-Philippines and MassimoTrombin, Vice-President Inter-national with special participa-tion with DENR NationalYouth Desk Officer, Ms. Ma.Magnolia Danganan. Around1,000 participants nationwideand 50 international delegatesare expected to attend theupcoming congress.

❑ ❑ ❑

The United Nations WorldFood Programme said today itwill provide 85 metric tons ofrice (1700 bags) to help morethan 42,000 people displaced byrecent conflict in the troubled is-land of Jolo , Sulu Province

Three days of clashes weeksago between Philippine troopsand a Moro National LiberationFront faction on Jolo resulted in12 deaths and drove some 8,500families from their homes inseven municipalities of Sulu.

“We hope this support forhungry families will help stabi-lize the situation in Sulu,” saidValerie Guarnieri, WFP Coun-try Director in the Philippines .“The province is one of the mostconflict-affected areas ofMindanao , and the World FoodProgramme will provide assist-

ance to these families in theirtime of need.”

❑ ❑ ❑

Delegates from the ThailandProgramme of Oxfam GreatBritain (OGB) expressed hopesfor a final peace agreement be-tween government and theMoro Islamic Liberation Front(MILF) while they visited localcommunities here recently.

Oxfam is a United King-dom-based developmentagency known worldwide forits humanitarian and reliefwork. The delegates, headedby Programme OfficerChalermsak Kittitrakul, alongwith Mr. Ni-Hasem Waesalaeand Ms.Soraya Jamjuree of theCommunity-Based Reconcilia-tory Management of Re-sources for the ParticipatoryRehabilitation of Local Liveli-hoods, Culture and ResourceBase Project, visited Mindanaoto learn about the peace anddevelopment conditions in theisland. The visit was arrangedfor Oxfam to gain more expo-sure about the peace process,in order to help them betterunderstand the “protectionconcept” implemented byOxfam and its partners inMindanao.

According to the Oxfam rep-resentatives, Mindanao andSouthern Thailand have similarpeace and order conditions andthat learning the mechanisms ofthe peace process would be ben-eficial to them and to how theypursue development in theircountry. The group made acourtesy call at the Coordinat-ing Committee on the Cessationof Hostilities (CCCH) office inCotabato City. They were re-ceived by GRP-CCCH Secre-tariat Head Capt. Carlos Sol, Jr.who discussed the ceasefireagreements as well as the chro-nology of events that have ledto the current situation in the

region.Capt. Sol also explainedthe nature and conduct of rido,or feudal wars, and how thisaffects the peace process.

❑ ❑ ❑

Isis International-Manila &Mindanao Women Writers inviteMuslims to apply for “WomenMaking Airwaves for Peace” ATraining on Using CommunityRadio for Peace Building on July4-8 in Cotabato City. The train-ing seeks to enhance the crucialrole media plays in conflict reso-lution and peace building inMindanao. It will stress the im-portance of community media,particularly radio, as a tool forpeace building; elaborate on thecontribution of women to con-flict resolution, particularly inMindanao, and how media haspromoted women’s active par-ticipation in peace initiatives;and explore other creative ideasand strategies on how women –through media – can build peacein the context of existing directand structural forms of violence.

❑ ❑ ❑

President Gloria MacapagalArroyo issued MemorandumOrder No. 201 or the Halal De-velopment Program which aimsto harmonize the Halal pro-grams of the different govern-ment agencies. DOT designatedDirector Shalimar HoferTamano as the department’srepresentative in the implemen-tation of the Halal DevelopmentProgram. Halal, taken from theArabic term meaning “lawful”or “permitted”, is food and non-food products that are accept-able not only to the majority ofpeople but most of all for Mus-lims around the world, accord-ing to the Shariah Law. In alarger sense, its promotion canprovide a wide range of oppor-tunities, as far as the PhilippineTrade Development Program isconcerned.

DISCLAIMER: The followingare culled from the testimoniesof individuals directly involvedin the electoral process. To pro-tect their security, their namesare kept anonymous as well asthe barangays, municipalitiesthey claim to have observed ir-regularities in. Many of thepractices are done in other partsof the country.

HAccording to the “Manual”,ARMM candidates have tospend not only on voters butalso for barangay leaders,propaganda, lawyers, advisers,headquarters, donations (so-licitations arrive daily).H Theyalso have to make sure theyprovide for three other criticalactors in the electoral process“to protect their vote” – theteachers, security forces ( themilitary, PNP) and most impor-tantly the election officers andthe COMELEC.

Expenses begin as early as ayear ahead of elections whenpoliticians have to fund follow-ers to register until the canvass-ing period, reaching up toCOMELEC National in case ofprotest.

HVotingVoting is done in the precinct,usually in public school class-rooms. The officials involved arecalled the Board of Election In-spectors (BEI) composed of theChairman, poll clerk and a 3rd

Member. A security force is onguard 50 meters away. They maybe called in to substitute if noteacher is willing to serve as BEI.

HLast minute vote-buying isdone at the polling centers.“Tarita” or sample ballots sta-pled with money are distrib-uted to voters to remind themto vote for the name on top ofthe money.

Vote-buying is an electionoffense and is prohibited underSec. 261 of the Omnibus Elec-tion Code.

HAny voter or watcher maychallenge illegal voters – notregistered, using the name ofanother, suffering from dis-qualification to which the BEIwould check proof of registra-tion or identity of the voter(Sec. 199). He/she may alsochallenge a voter who has re-

ceived or expects to receive,has paid, offered, or promisedto pay Hin consideration for thevote of another … (Art 14 - Sec.200).

HOutsiders and non-votingresidents are not allowed in-side the precinct. Beware of by-standers in precincts who claimto “assist”. They will influencethe voters to write the namesof their employer/ candidates.Some even fill up the ballotthemselves for the voter.

HSomeone in authority suchas the barangay chairmen maypush in one voter to vote aheadof the others even if he isn’tlisted. H

HCreating a disturbance is anormal diversionary tactic.HThreats, intimidation, terror-ism, coercion of voters and elec-tion officials and employees areelection offenses.

HA rapid calling out of names,without waiting for voters tofinish casting their vote, can bea way for voters who have al-ready cast their vote to returnback in line to vote AGAIN.

HVoting for local candidates isusually the first priority of avoter. Voters would be urged tohurryHvotingHso that the na-tional candidates such as theparty list or senatoriableswould be left blank, givingroom for future negotiation tofill up the blanks at the canvass-ing level.

HAfter the voting proper, allthe ballots that were not usedor voted upon should be torn atthe bottom so that these won’tbe used.

HCountingIn a manual counting, three per-sons must be watched at theprecinct: HChairman (the onereading the ballot), Poll ClerkH(the one tallying at the black-board),HH and the one writing onthe election return. H

They hold the most contro-versial document – the electionreturn, which is subject of theappreciation of ballot in the can-vass later. Factors that can affectthe counting are:

• lack of electricity or goodlighting that can limit the trans-parency of ballot reading, tally-ing and writing of entries

• absence of BEIs that candelay the counting

• absence of watchers forcouncilor and board membercould work to their disadvan-tage

Upon opening the ballot box,examine if there are any miss-ing ballots or paraphernalia bytaking down their serialnumber. After hearing out thename voted, the act of puttingthe entry on the tally board andputting an entry in the ER mustbe SIMULTANEOUS, instead offilling it up AFTER the tallyingon the board, when all thewatchers have left for the day.

If a watcher is not vigilant,different names might be an-nounced from the ballot ornumbers, then hurriedlyputting down the ballot sayingNEXT BALLOT. In what iscalled double entry, using achalk/ pentel pen speedilyenough could mark one line or“taras” with another or add across to another. When thereader, tally-maker ordocumenter shields the mate-rial which they are announcing,something suspicious can bemissed.

If a watcher is weak upon anythreat or intimidation, he maynot be able to guard the altera-tions and corrections that can bemade. A security force or an in-terested party could shoo awaywatchers to leave the precinct.

HCheck also if the number ofregistered voters matches thenumber of votes cast.

Upon transferring entries tothe ER in the recording of votesand in the Certificate of Votes(COV), be on your guard for thefollowing: HH switching of num-bers or difference inHwordingand number.

Upon completion of the elec-tion returns, the chairman of theBEI shall orally and publiclyannounce the total number ofvotes received in the election inthe polling place by each andevery one of the candidates,stating their corresponding of-fice (Sec. 213). It is the duty ofthe BEI to issue a certificate ofthe number of votes received bya candidate upon request by thewatchers. All the members ofthe BEI shall sign the certificate

(Sec. 215).HThe COV shall be admissible

in evidence to prove tampering,alteration, falsification or anyanomaly committed in the elec-tion returns concerned, whenduly authenticated by testimo-nial or documentary evidencepresented to the board of can-vassers by at least two membersof the BEI who issued the cer-tificate (RA 6646 Sec. 17).

HBeware of BEI member whowould keep the COV under hischest instead of depositing it inthe ballot box as it should be.

HIf a watcher witnesses anyform of irregularity, he/shemust immediately fill up thecomplaint form and submit toCOMELEC. COMELEC willalso not act on any complaintnot notarized.

HCanvassThe Municipal Board of Can-vassers (MBC) is composed ofthe Supervisor, Treasurer andsecretary.H Lawyers and watch-ers must watch out for discrep-ancies of numbersHbetween theER, SOV and Certificate ofVotes (COV).

HIf the SOV has entries whichwere “snowpaked”, one mustofficially note them.

HOperators from national par-ties and candidates wouldhover at the tabulation sites andoffer a bid for their candidate’snames to be the one written inblank spaces of the SOV.

“Snacks” given to the officialsfrom candidates should benoted.

(Study undertaken with the helpof the Local Governance SupportProgram in ARMM by the Cana-dian International DevelopmentAgency)

Excerpts from “Step by Stepmanual on Election cheating:

Experiences in ARMM”1. How do we protect our

communities from extremistswho wish us harm?

“We need to deepen thelinks between our people at alllevels. We need to shareknowledge and experience.We need to help each otherunderstand the threats andopportunities in our ownbackyards.

But the security that weseek, and that we owe to ourpeople, is just as much a localphenomenon as it is an inter-national one. Ultimately, weonly feel safe if we trust, re-spect and— importantly—know our neighbours.

Governments must look be-yond the obvious. When abomb goes off, we rely on thecourage of our security staff tosave lives. We need our policeand intelligence agencies towork together to track and un-cover terrorist plots. But thelong term solutions comethrough education policies,through local community ini-tiatives, through electoral lawsand, perhaps most of all ,through promoting values offair play, of inclusion and oftolerance.

2. Is British foreign policybiased against Muslims?

I reject unequivocally thenotion that our foreign policyis biased against Muslims. Justlook at the evidence: In Iraq,we aim to support the demo-cratically elected—and largelyMuslim —Iraqi government intheir efforts to promote recon-ciliation between the differentcommunities in Iraq. At thesame time, thousands of ouryoung men and women arerisking their lives to help ex-

tend the authority of thedemocratically elected gov-ernment of the Islamic Repub-lic of Afghanistan. These arenot the actions of an anti-Mus-lim country, and it is a lie tosuggest they are.

Our global security dependson the ability of people of dif-ferent faiths to live together. Itis true of the globe, and it isalso true of the village. ThePhilippines, like the UK, is anisland nation seeking to buildbridges with the wider world.We are both looking at how wecan use democracy as a tool tofight extremism, not as a frag-ile object at risk from terroristattack.

3. On UK support for educa-tion as a bridge between ma-jority and minority.

I was heartened to learn thatthe Filipino government hasintroduced a new curriculumoffering Arabic and Islamicstudies to state schools inMuslim dominated areas.

This mirrors what we aredoing in the UK, bringing mi-nority religions and beliefsinto the mainstream educationsystem so that all of ourschoolchildren, whatever theirreligion—and in the UK thereare many—can learn that Is-lam and all other major reli-gions prize peace and rejectviolence. They can lean thatthose who espouse hatred anddestruction are undermining,and not defending, the faiththey claim to speak for.

Such education is a feature ofa healthy democracy. The won-derful thing about democracyis that it gives everyone a voice,and everyone the opportunity

See HOWELLS D4

Excerpts from Dr.Kim Howells speechat the GoldenMosque, Quiapo

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The Moro Times FRIDAYMarch 30, 2007

THE Moro former human rights commissionerand street crusader Nasser A. Morohomsalic

was never expected to live. In April 1955, agreat earthquake hit Lanao del Sur causinglakeside mosques to fall into the lake. Nasser’spregnant mother was buried under the rublewhen the roof of their house fell in on her.H Hismother survived; four months later, on July 21,Nasser was born in Romayas, Lumba Bayabao.

“I think the incident made me spiritual insome ways and it also explains why Ina insistedthat I marry early. I was 16 then and my wifewas only 14, and we had no inkling how to raisea family. Mother subconsciously wanted to as-sure the continuity of a bloodline, so supremelyimportant among the Maranao.”

With trinkets of children in tow,Marohomsalic went on with his study. His edu-cation was partly financed thru scholarships.In 1981, he finished Law at the University ofthe Philippines and he passed the bar exam thesame year.

Nasser’s peers expected him to go corporatelike so many of his friends. However, havingwitnessed so much oppression and violation ofhuman rights around the country, the callingof the Bangsamoro was too much for him toturn his back.

Indigenous RightsNasser became a keen exponent of promotinghuman rights. “The Indigenous People’s RightsAct is something I always feel emotional aboutbecause it’s close to my heart. Its constitution-ality had been questioned in the Supreme Courtand I defended it. It was a closely contested casewhich guarantees the rights to ancestral do-main. Originally the Human Rights Commis-sion was opposed to it but I gradually wonthem over. The wisdom is that what the indig-enous people are claiming is the land they con-trol before the establishment of the State.”

During the Estrada administration, Maro-homsalic publicly assailed the President’s “allout war policy” against the MILF. “The movewas counterproductive. It’s more of rage ratherthan a considered solution. And it’s not work-ing on the international level..”

A Tale of Two Moro Champions:Towards Fair Elections

BY NASSER SHARIEF

COME May 15 the Filipino people will decide once again who they will elect forpublic office. Will their votes be properly accounted for, or are we in for another

exercise in futility?Moro Times interviewed two distinguished Moro lawyers HEAVILY INVOLVED IN CLEAN ELEC-

TIONS

Nasser A. Marohomsalic:Human rights champion

Mehol K. Sadain:Election reform advocateTHE first assignment that Mehol K. Sadain un

dertook when he was newly appointed asCommissioner in the Commission on Electionsin 2000 was to restore the lost record of voters’registration in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, whoseOffice was gutted by fire. This was supposed tobe routine, albeit tedious, but the Commissionknew better.

What Mehol did was virtually unheard of. Heobliged all local election officials to swear (sapa) be-fore the holy Qur’an to abide by the rules of the reg-istration and the prospective voters to register onlyonce and then get on with it.

Unorthodox? Yes, but it worked.A lawyer, Mehol K. Sadain, graduated Bachelor

of Islamic Studies in the University of the Philippines.Mehol said that understanding Islam and shariaheventually defined his method on how to deal withthe pesky problems of elections in the Moro prov-inces. “I simply let loose the engine of conscienceand it worked. More or less we got an accurate reg-istration and curbed the incidence of ‘flying’ voters.”

Mehol was born on December 24, 1955 in his na-tive town of San Raymundo, Jolo, Sulu to Said D.Sadain, Sr. and Angelina T. Kiram. He is married toNilda S. Sadorra with whom he has an eighteen-yearold daughter named Jameela.

Mehol had spent part of his childhood in manyplaces in Mindanao like Jolo, Sulu and Iligan City.He graduated valedictorian in high school at theAteneo de Zamboanga in 1972. When Martial Lawwas declared that year, the rebellion affected hisfamily’s livelihood and his ability to finance hiscollege education was in question. Mehol luckilygot a scholarship at the Institute of Islamic Studiesin UP. He continued his study and in 1986 he wasgraduated 16th in the University of the PhilippinesCollege of Law.

Mehol had been a lecturer, researcher, professor,Sharia lawyer, and a Shari’ah Bar Examiner. He alsowrote a column for Diario Uno, focusing on the de-velopment among the Muslims in the Philippines in1998. . He was Corporate Secretary of the NationalPower Corporation from 1994-1998 and OIC Gen-eral Counsel in 1998 with the rank of Vice President.

Before he went on to become Commissioner of theCommission on Elections, Mehol was lecturer, thenAssistant Professor of the Institute of Islamic Stud-ies in UP where he eventually became Dean of theInstitute in 2000.

Alien cultureWhy is there so much irregularities in elections inthe Moro provinces in the South?

Mehol’s answer was succinct, if blunt: “Becausewe don’t identify ourselves with the government,we don’t put much premium on elections. We take itlightly. The thing is if we violate the rules of elec-tions—it simply means nothing to us.

“Election is something alien to the Moro people.Not that it is inequitable. We have tradition you see,of succession. It’s our culture. Consensus is not asdirect as voting. We arrive at it in a roundabout way.That’s the genius of our system.”

Mehol argues that as long as the traditional sys-tem is not accommodated, or not given vent, it couldbe a long to way go for the Moro electoral process toimprove: “Many of our people do not have a keenappreciation of the democratic electoral process. Asit stands now, the setup is not sensitive to the cul-tural background of the constituents. And nothingcould be more pretentious as to assume otherwise.”

Proxy votingMehol has non-traditional views on voting. He saysthat individual voting is alien to many indigenoustribes, not just to the Moro dominated areas. Manyindividuals just do not have the sophistication to de-cide on their own.

“We are into what I call communal voting. Some-times in a place where many are illiterates they wouldappoint one person to fill all the ballots for them.They trust him.

“The predicament could be avoided if communalvoting is allowed in the same vein as proxy votingwhich is a fact in corporate voting. Because sometrust the judgment of a few, this is possible. Why notlegislate it?

“Casting ballots individually—our leaders knowsthat it’s not the best for us. Many people are gullible

to wrong propaganda. There is pervasive cheatingbecause certain means of expressing votes is not al-lowed. It’s that simple.”

Last actMehol’s term of office with the Commisison on Elec-tions ended last February 2006. He remembers willthe last act he did before leaving the Commission:“At the tail-end of my service with the CommissionI supervised the elections in Basilan where we in-vestigated ballot snatching and charged a numberof teachers. We nullified no less than 15 precincts forirregularities, recommended for prosecutionBarangay chairmen involved in irregularities, andthe pre-filling up of blank ballots. But believe me youcan do only so much. A much, much deeper digginginto the root causes of these malpractices is neededto give a long-term solution.”

Since then Mehol has been engaging the public invarious fora and discussions on how to make theelections credible in the country. He is co-convenorof Halalang Marangal together with former SenatorBobby Tañada, retired General Frank Gudani, statis-tical expert Roberto Verzola, Sister Mary RoseMarangan, Lawyer Ipat Luna and environmentalistGani Serrano. Halal seeks to foster a citizen’s auditof the precinct count in the 2007 elections.

Finding timeGiven the magnitude of responsibilities heaped onhigh public officials, one would think that Mehol’sworld is dominated by the nitty-gritty of technicalworks, research and board-room meetings. But likeformer human rights commissioner NasserMarohomsalic, Mehol finds time for literary works.

Besides writing essays and manuscripts, Meholwrote some short fictions in various magazines like‘The River Below’ in Philippine Graphics, ‘Old Fa-ther’ in Philippine Focus and ‘Brother Hunt’ in Per-ception.

He has written poems in Brown River, WhiteOcean: An Anthology of 20th Century PhilippineLiterature published by Rutgers University Press,New Jersey, USA, and a scattering of other poems inlocal literary journals, folios, and magazines.

Marohomsalic, since leaving the HumanRights Commission in 2001, has continued hiswork and actively involves himself with pri-vate organizations. He is the Founding Chairof the Muslim Legal Assistance Foundation; Co-convenor of the Philippine Council for Islamand Democracy; Convenor, Movement of Con-cerned Citizens for Civil Liberties; Lead Con-venor, Union of Muslims for Morality, Account-ability and Truth, and lately; Governing Boardof the Legal Network for Truthful elections(LENTE) of the PPCRV’s Lawyers’ Group.

“So my career is punctuated by writing, thena private practice here and there to keep myhead above water. Looking back I feel that I’vemade the right decision and I have little to re-gret and none to agitate my conscience.”

Safeguarding the Moro votesThese days, Marohomsalic is preoccupied withkeeping democracy alive in ARMM. “The ram-pant vote buying and the rigging of electionskeep vexing us. Much more so because in Is-lam, these practices are all haram. And whatbetter persuasion we need to convince thesepeople to straighten their votes? My approachis what many would call pangungutya. I said,dapat ang mga Muslim ay ikahiya. Binansagantayong cheating capital of the Philippines. Sowe should actively involve ourselves in theprocess. Ipaliwanag natin na in Islam cheatingis an abomination and cheaters will all roastin hell.”

“We spearheaded the MUSCLE umbrella—the Muslim for Clean Elections—for Muslimgroups, to safeguard the integrity of the elec-toral process.”

Why, all forms of electoral fraud prevalentin Muslim areas? Why do national candidatesfocus on ARMM votes?

“Leaf over the majority of election relatedcases, for instance. You will find that majorityof the cases are from Lanao. I myself was sur-prised that many of the landmark decisions inCOMELEC concerns Lanao. This only goes toshow that a well-orchestrated program to putin line all the election processes in this area willgo a long way in ensuring a clean and honestelection for the whole country.”

“I think there is a cultural explanation tothat. The Moro public is afflicted with a socialdisease called the ‘electoral dementia’ whichdistorts their sense of balance or mechanism ofsocial control. And this proceeds from the valuesystem called among Maranaos as maratabat—roughly akin to Japanese Bushido, the Spanishamor propio or the Filipino “kahihiyan”. All ofthese rolled into one and more is, I think, whatdefines the maratabat. So during elections can-didates and supporters would do everythingin their means to win the election which breaksdown the fabric of morals. Not even the loftyideals contained in the teaching of Islam couldthwart cheating.”

How Moro votes become critical?“Because Moro are indifferent to the national

candidate they tend to distort the result of theelectoral process. They lack appreciation of theirrole in uplifting the status of the country andthe government system. The money they getfrom vote-buying is at least concrete than thepromised reform. We need to be educated in po-litical stability and the workings of democracy.”

Marohomsalic’s vocation culminated in hispublication of his book Aristocrats of the MalayRace: A History of the Bangsamoro People, a 439-page saga of the Moro people which, as he saidin the introduction, was written on-and-off dur-ing his “lean years”. The Institute of ForeignService also published his book Towards Peace,Autonomy and Human Rights.

to decide on the policies and laws that governtheir lives. I represent the constituency ofPontypridd in South Wales. If my constituentsdisagree with my position on Iraq, or on mygovernment’s economic policies or anythingelse, they can vote me out. They don’t need arevolution or a gun, they just need a ballot box.So it is important that the Philippines, like everyother nation, ensures that the elections later thisyear are demonstrably fair and free.

Other reforms, equally important in the fightagainst terrorism, flow from the basic princi-ples of democracy—fair trials, a free press, so-cial justice. Our challenge, just like yours, is toembed these values into every strand of gov-ernment so that our citizens are confident thattheir rights will be respected.

I find it hugely encouraging that people de-fine themselves by the values they share, be-

cause it means that newcomers to our commu-nities, regardless of their ethnicity or religion,can be accepted into society providing theyshare those basic values.

Conversely, it means there is no place for thatsmall minority of extremists who reject the val-ues which bind our society together. Govern-ments need a strong response to these people.We must protect our populations from their vio-lence and we must disrupt their intent to causebloodshed and mayhem.

4. On peaceful resolution of conflictWe encourage your efforts to find a negoti-

ated peace to the Mindanao conflict. We in Brit-ain have some experience of resolving conflictin Northern Ireland. We learned the hard waythat security measures will only get you so farand that, eventually, if your aim is a lasting

peace, you must be willing to address the un-derlying causes of the conflict.

It is not an easy process, nor is it quick. It tookus about thirty years to get to the point wherewe are now—where violence has stopped andwe can afford, at last, the luxury of optimism.

During this visit, I have had the pleasure ofmeeting members of the Philippine Council forIslam and Democracy. They understand the im-portance of tolerance and we are fortunate tobe working with them to build a unified DarulIfta that talks not just to the Philippines’ Mus-lim community but which also reaches out toestablish interfaith dialogues.

I am confident that community based workis the most effective way to prevent terroristoutrages – whether they are on the London Un-derground or on a ferryboat in Manila harbour.

If tolerance can be built on a local level it will

be felt at national and international levels too.Look again at this exhibition celebrating Mus-lims in Britain. Mr Sanders has photographedimages of Islam across the world. He haspointed out that Islam in China is Chinese. InAfrica it is African and in Britain it is British.To me, this is the point of this exhibition. Thesepictures are recognisably both Islamic and Brit-ish. That is exactly what we are trying toachieve in the UK.

(“The Art of Integration” photo exhibition byPeter Sanders is

currently on show at The Jewellery, Green-hills Shopping Center til 30 April 2007)

(Dr Kim Howells, Minister of State, Responsi-ble for: the Middle East, Afghanistan and SouthAsia, Counter Narcotics, Counter Proliferation,Counter Terrorism, UN and UN Reform.)

■ Mehol Sadain

THE POLITICIAN

BY MEHOL K. SADAIN

Our politician has stuffed his fist into his mouth,He is intensity mirrored in promises,Scattering them sandlike and windblown.He gesticulates victory on stages and captive mindsEtching the message: I am your savior,I am your hope, you dregs of the southern shores.

He weaves a tale of family cult and pedigreeWhere guns breed power and money moves the saints,Where man and commune co-exist as one vote,And penitent heads are blind to sacrilegious cheats.There is no relief in sight, only certain demiseOf morality, of popular will and pride defying defeat.

To our politician, politics is a sorcerer’s illusion,And we are an audience dazzled by magic.

■ Nasser A. Marohomsalic

Excerpts from Dr. Kim Howells speech at the Golden Mosque, Quiapo■ HOWELLS From page D3


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