Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs
By EDD K. USMAN
(SDN) — WITH the Moro people dispersed across the Philippines, addressing their needs in this time of Covid-19 pandemic is a big challenge.
Consider the numbers.
Lawyer Saidamen Balt Pangarungan, CEO and secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), said “there are 12 million Muslim Filipinos, four million of them in (BARMM). Eight million are scattered outside BARMM.”
BARMM is the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, comprised of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu, and the cities of Lamitan, Marawi, and Cotabato as well as some villages in North Cotabato.
Either escaping the decades of conflict in Mindanao starting in early 1970s, or looking for economic opportunities elsewhere, or both, the local Muslims (also known as Moros) dispersed in various areas of Luzon and the Visayas.
Many have made good in their new hometowns, still many fell to unscrupulous persons authorities or not, still more because of Moros themselves leading a wayward life by choice. It’s because “choice” is present in everyone whether in a dire situation or not.
Anyway, this is a story about the huge challenge the NCMF has to surmount, addressing and responding to its constituents as Covid-19 quarantines and lockdowns disrupted every facet of everyday life.
Previous administrations/leaderships that captained the defunct Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) which the commission replaced in 2010 until today’s crisis wrought by the novel coronavirus did not experience a challenge of this magnitude faced by the Pangarungan leadership.
It appears, then, that — arguably — the NCMF administration of Pangarungan just in the days of Covid-19 would dwarf the actions done by all the previous leaderships of the OMA and the commission.
In a report over Radio Inquirer by Erwin Aguilon, Pangarungan cited the challenges the commission had to overcome to reach out to its constituents.
“It’s a challenge to NCMF providing to the needs of Muslim Filipinos in this time of Covid-19, especially that they are scattered in the country.
“We have 12 million Muslim Filipinos, four million of them live in BARMM, eight million outside BARMM,” the NCMF points says.
“So it was the biggest challenge that I ever encountered, because how can you feed 12 million Muslim Filipinos who are in dire need of help and assistance, especially those in the very vulnerable sector.”
He said that as calls for assistance mounted, and based on the orders of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the commission being the lead agency addressing the welfare and well-being of Muslims, he immediately formed an NCMF Task Force on Covid-19 with its Central Command Central at the NCMF Central Office in Quezon City.
Sooner than later the commission started responding to and providing for the needs of its constituents, first in the National Capital Region, nearby towns and cities, spreading out to other parts of Luzon, then in the Visayas and Mindanao.
“The relief operations of the NCMF started in March nationwide through the Central Command Center and Covid-19 Regional Task Forces in the 11 regional offices and field offices.
“They responded to all calls for help from Muslim communities nationwide, giving food packs, burial assistance, including for locally stranded individuals (LSIs),” recalls Pangarungan.
“That is the reason I called for assistance. With the help of God, we were able to raise donations from our NCMF employees, the private sector (businesses) many of them from our brothers and, lately, from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).
— NCMF Secretary Saidamen B. Pangarungan
Like other government agencies, the NCMF was facing a challenge about limited funds and resources.
“That is the reason I called for assistance. With the help of God, we were able to raise donations from our NCMF employees, the from the private sector (businesses) many of them from our brothers and, lately, from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).
He emphasized that donations come not only from his fellow Muslims, but also from non-Muslims.
“So, in that way, we were able to provide relief operations, food assistance to our compatriots nationwide, from Tuguegarao to Tawi-Tawi.”
The assistance went to and still going to Moro communities, including students from foreign countries like Saudi Arabia who came home after their Islamic studies, to LSIs, to those who took the recent BAR examinations, and others who wanted to go return to their hometowns in Mindanao.
Pangarungan also expressed his gratitude to Senator Christopher “Bong” Go for his assistance to the NCMF cause.
The NCMF secretary promised its constituents the commission will continue to assist “our countrymen in accordance with our mandate until the pandemic is gone.”
“This is the order of the President.”
Meanwhile, the officials of the BARMM prior to its establishment had assured the autonomous government will also assist Muslims who are outside its territory. (SDN)
All images from Facebook page of Dr. Dimapuno Alonto Datu-Ramos, Jr. (featured photograph), director of Bureau of External Relations (NCMF-BER) and NCMF spokesman.