Unity in Times of Trouble: How the NCMF Battled the Pandemic, An Eruption, Widespread Flooding, and Earthquakes
YEAR-END REPORT | To say that 2020 was a year of difficulties is a massive understatement.
• Dr. DIMAPUNO “JUN” ALONTO DATU-RAMOS, JR., Director, Bureau of External Relations, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF-BER)
Social media posts highlighting the numerous events since January 2020 flooded our newsfeeds. What started off as a singular movement to address the calamity in the vicinity of the Taal Volcano became numerous calls for assistance in earthquake-hit and fire-ravaged Muslim Filipino communities in Mindanao and parts of Luzon.
Then came the pandemic that swiftly spread across the entire world. With the March lockdown came the desperate messages for rescues, delivery of relief goods, and assistance to bury the dead Muslims who were in danger of being cremated. The surge of returning OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and Islamic scholars caught everyone by surprise; added to it was the problem with the Muslim Filipino LSIs (Locally Stranded Individuals) who had no means of returning to Mindanao. Many were jobless and unable to provide for their hungry families.
Just when we thought that things could not get any worse, the typhoons caused severe flooding nationwide. Whether it was due to climate change, or man-made negligence, multiple Muslim families and other residents were forced to seek higher ground as they watched their properties become submerged in muddy water.
The most painful above all else was the cancellation of the Hajj 2020. Because of this, the Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (NCMF-BPE) had to conduct a mass refund for all the paid pilgrims nationwide.
Partnership for helping out
With all of these happening, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) under Secretary Saidamen B. Pangarungan remained vigilant and answered as many calls for help that we could. Despite the financial constraints and limited manpower of the NCMF, we somehow made it work through the one thing that the Commission is mandated to do: unification of the Muslim Filipino communities.
We saw private individuals and organizations, with government officials and agencies, donating through the Bureau of Muslim Settlements, Bureau of Peace and Conflict Resolution, the Bureau of External Relations (NCMF-BER), and the 11 Regional Offices with the 10 Field Offices. Muslim Filipino Civic Society Organizations (CSOs) worked closely with the NCMF Regional Directors and the NCMF Covid-19 Task Forces in distributing relief items to the most affected communities. The NCMF owes the DILG and Secretary Eduardo Año, through Undersecretaries Jonathan Malaya and Marjorie Jalosjos, a huge debt of gratitude for all the assistance in securing safe passage for the tablighs, the stranded Islamic scholars (morits), and the burial of Covid- and none Covid-related deaths while travel bans were in place. The DSWD (Department of Social Work and Development) under Secretary Rolando Bautista also deserves to be commended for the thousands of Family Relief Packs distributed through the NCMF. Even the Department of Agriculture (DA) under Secretary William Dar, through Undersecretary Zamsamin L. Ampatuan, contributed to the NCMF’s efforts through their programs on urban farming and planting promotion. All of these were the driving forces behind the relief operations supervised by Secretary Pangarungan through the Regional Directors, the reason why roughly 200,000 Muslim Filipino families have felt the presence of the NCMF despite all the challenges the agency faced.
More importantly, it is the phenomenal dedication and perseverance of the NCMF officials and employees that need to be highlighted as we embark on another year of service to the Muslim Filipino communities. It is the people of the Commission, and their love for their fellowmen, that ensured the successes during this difficult year.
Unity, the saving grace
What 2020 did was to unearth the inadequacies in the system when it comes to provision of service to the vulnerable sectors. Some of the means to address this is the move of the NCMF to become an ISO-certified government agency by the first quarter of 2021. The plan has been in motion since June 2020, and will conclude with the final accreditation step by March 2021. Added to this is the NCMF’s halal industry development and promotion programs through the Bureau of Muslim Economic Affairs (NCMF-BMEA), partnerships with other government agencies and private groups, nationwide TeleMedicine and Legal TeleConsultations, launching of the Bureau of Muslim Cultural Affairs’ (NCMF-BMCA) and Planning Service’s Cultural Troupe with the NCCA (National Commission on Culture and Arts), as well as dialogues of the Bureau of Legal Affairs (NCMF-BLA) with concerned public personalities regarding the gaps between the National Government and the Muslim Filipino community through the CLEPs (Community Legal Education Program), and the nationwide Lanao youth organization, ONLY4PEACE to prevent violent extremism and address mental health issues.
Special thanks must be given to Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto Adiong, Jr. for the thousands of sacks of rice distributed nationwide as food assistance during the pandemic.
Truly, it is UNITY that will save us all, and only through working hand-in-hand will we find ourselves rising up from the ashes left behind by 2020.
Good work, and congratulations to the entire NCMF Family!
Mabuhay ang Muslim Filipinos! (✓)