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(SDN) March 8, 2022 — Ex-Lanao del Sur governor Atty. Saidamen Balt Pangarungan today assumed his office as the new chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
This was just after he took his oath of office at the Supreme Court before Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte appointed Pangarungan on March 7. He was then the secretary/CEO of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), also through an appointment from the President. At the poll body, his appointment will span seven years until February 2, 2029.
His appointment was made ad interim so he could serve immediately as Congress is not in session because of the forthcoming elections. Appointments to the Comelec requires concurrence of Congress’s Commission on Appointments (CA) with members from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
From a post on Facebook by Amayabil Pangarungan Basman, here’s a long background of the new Comelec head, replacing Sheriff Abas of Maguindanao province:
Saidamen Balt Pangarungan (born 23 September 1950, in Dansalan (now Marawi City), Lanao del Sur) is a lawyer and politician who served as a governor of Lanao del Sur from 1988 to 1992. He was appointed before by President Rodrigo Duterte as Secretary of National Commission on Muslim Filipinos on 9 July 2018.
EDUCATION AND WORK
He studied at the Jamiatul Philippine al-Islamia (Islamic University of the Philippines) in Marawi City, where he was a consistent valedictorian in his elementary and high school years in 1956–1966. He finished his Liberal Arts degree in 1971 and Law in 1976 at the San Beda University as a consistent college scholar. He passed the Philippine bar examinations on the same year with a weighted average of 85.6%.He immediately went to law practice for 24 years including his 8-year stint with the prestigious Siguion-Reyna, Montecillo & Ongsiako law offices in Makati City, where he became a legal counsel of both local and multi-national companies in the Philippines such as Bank of America, Goodyear, Caltex, Sumitomo, Dole Philippines, San Miguel Corp., PLDT, Philippine Airlines, and Equitable PCI Bank (now BDO).
As an opposition candidate against the ruling Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), Pangarungan was elected Assemblyman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from 1979 to 1982. After the EDSA Revolution in 1986, Pangarungan was appointed acting governor of Lanao del Sur, replacing governor Mohamad Ali Dimaporo, a powerful ally of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos during the martial law regime. A challenge to his administration was the kidnapping of 12 Carmelite nuns from their Marawi hilltop convent by lawless group of men. From the Vatican, Pope John Paul II appealed to their captors to release the nuns who were later brought to Lumbayanague town across south of Lake Lanao. After two weeks of continued search, Pangarungan led government security forces and encircled the kidnappers’ holdout. Under heavy pressure, the outnumbered kidnappers were forced to release all the nuns, safe and unharmed.
ABOLITION OF 2,000 GHOST BARANGAYS
Pangarungan was later appointed as undersecretary of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) by President Corazon Aquino. He was tasked as chairman of the inter-agency committee that investigated the ghost barangays in the Moro provinces. After six months of ocular investigations and upon Pangarungan’s recommendations, President Aquino signed an executive order abolishing some 2,000 ghost barangays in the two Lanao provinces, saving the government billions of pesos in regular allotments to the non-existent or uninhabited villages. As undersecretary, he also helped craft an executive order granting regular salaries and allowances to barangay (village) officials in the country.
In the 1988 elections, he was elected governor of Lanao del Sur, beating for the first time the political dynasties in the province. As governor, he built the four-hectare provincial capitol complex overlooking the scenic Lake Lanao, the provincial library, People’s Park and commissioned other infrastructure projects. He also concreted 110 kilometers of two major road networks: the Lake Lanao Circumferential Road and the Marawi-Malabang Road. At that time, the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of the provincial government was a meager Php850,000 a month compared to the Php160 million monthly at 2017 figures. During Pangarungan’s watch, the province was drug-free because of his staunch campaign against illegal drugs trade. Under his governorship, Lanao del Sur and its capital was much peaceful, with no recorded firefights or skirmishes between government and rebel forces. He negotiated the surrender of thousands of MNLF and MILF rebels. For his unprecedented achievements, Pangarungan was awarded thrice as one of the “Most Outstanding Governors of the Philippines” in three consecutive years: 1989, 1990 and 1991.
Pangarungan was also a member of the Philippine delegation at the World Muslim Congress in Karachi, Pakistan in 1983, where he sponsored the adoption of the “Karachi Declaration for Peace & Unity” to revive the long stalled peace talks between the Marcos government and the rebel MNLF and BMLO forces. In 1987, President Cory Aquino sent Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Agapito Butz Aquino, Norberto Gonzales and Pangarungan to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to revive the peace talks with the MNLF- Nur Misuari faction. This led to the signing of the Jeddah Accord of 1987. Nur Misuari ended his exile and returned to the Philippines to eventually sign the 1996 Final Peace Accord (FPA) with the government.
MINDANAO POWER CRISIS
In 2007, he became president of the Agus 3 Hydropower Corporation; and later in 2013 as chairman/CEO of the Maranao Energy Corp.(MENCO) that won the government bid on the Agus 3 hydropower project (240 Megawatts) in 2015. Pangarungan pursued the Agus 3 project to help address the crippling power outages in Mindanao in 2010 to 2015.
SECRETARY, NATIONAL COMMISSION ON MUSLIM FILIPINOS
On July 9, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Pangarungan as secretary with cabinet rank and chairman, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF). Under its charter, Republic Act 9997, the commission is tasked to uplift the socio-economic and cultural lives of the approximately 12 million Muslims in the Philippines. Pangarungan’s priority agenda was to reform the NCMF long dogged by corruption, ensure a comfortable and affordable annual Hajj (Pilgrimage) to Makkah, Saudi Arabia for thousands of Filipino pilgrims, and led a joint nationwide project with the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and the Japanese Government in strengthening national and local resilience against violent extremism.
Under Pangarungan leadership, the NCMF received ISO 9001:2015 Seal of Excellence Certification by Bureau Veritas of France on December 16, 2021. This was in recognition of his accomplishments in reforming the Hajj pilgrimage by providing excellent accommodation to thousands of Filipino pilgrims in 4.7 to 5-star hotels in Saudi Arabia; in reducing the Mutawiff or Hajj service fees by substantial reduction in plane fares. Pangarungan also activated and implemented the 24 mandates of the Commission under its NCMF charter including national peace-building, the development to greater heights of halal, shariah, Islamic finance, and the Madrasah educational system. He proactively responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic through the Commission’s ongoing relief operations and other assistance to the calls for help by more than 200,000 Muslim families nationwide. 
PERSONAL LIFE, FAMILY, AND ANCESTRY
He is married to Princess Johayra Diamond Ali Pacasum Pangarungan, the Bailabi a Gaus sa Ranao and former assemblywoman of ARMM. Pangarungan was born in Marawi City on September 23, 1950, to Datu Abdulrahman Diambangan Balt of the Sultanate of Bayang, and the late Bae Jameela Asum Pangarungan Amai Manabilang of the Sultanate of Lanao. (✓)
[Source: WIKIPEDIA ]
Featured image shows Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo (right) administering the oath of office of Maranao leader Atty. Saidamen B. Pangarungan as new chairman of the Comelec. All photos credit to Amayabil Pangarungan Basman.