on Friday Jan 12th at 1:35am
The move is meant to make sure local government officials will always be available to address their constitutuents' needs. File photo
COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will keep tabs on absentee mayors whose towns are plagued by bandits and Islamist terrorists starting next week.
The move is in compliance with a directive from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator, for ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and governors of provinces outside the autonomous region to monitor their mayors' participation in counterterrorism campaigns.
The ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information released copies of the directive, issued on January 8, to media on Thursday.
Hataman, chairman of the regional peace and order council, said Friday that provincial personnel of different ARMM agencies will check on the “obligatory presence” of local officials in their towns and on how they are serving their constituents.
“Obviously, the purpose of the directive of the martial administrator is to ensure that local government units in troubled areas are functioning efficiently. I agree, only good governance can address violent religious extremism. That is something we have been trying to do in the regional government since 2012,” Hataman said.
Lorenzana’s directive also asked Hataman to monitor the whereabouts of the ARMM's provincial officials in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The autonomous region also covers the cities of Lamitan and Marawi, the administrative and political capitals of Basilan and Lanao del Sur, respectively.
Mayors must be present to provide basic services, address security issues
Lorenzana's directive implied the need to stop absenteeism among local officials so they can efficiently address peace and security issues that are rooted in poor governance.
Some mayors in Lanao del Sur have been criticized for failing to prevent the expansion of the Maute terror group, which started only as a fledgling Islamic State-inspired terror cell in Butig town.
The founders of the Maute group, Omar and Abdullah Maute, and all of their five brothers were killed during the five-month siege of Marawi City.
The conflict, which left more than a hundred soldiers and terrorists dead, left Marawi City in ruins and displaced more than 300,000 residents.
Sources said only a few from among the 39 mayors in Lanao del Sur showed overt support for efforts by Gov. Soraya Alonto-Adiong and Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra to maintain order during the five-month conflict for fear of repercussions.
"Many of them helped but very discreetly, afraid of getting the ire of the Maute group. That is not how mayors ought to be. Our governor and Mayor Gandamra were there all those days despite the risks," a source said.
Absenteeism in Sulu
Many mayors in Sulu, known as the most dangerous and politically-troubled province in the autonomous region, are also being bashed for habitual absence from office.
Police and military officials said many mayors in Sulu live in Zamboanga City and manage their towns from their houses there.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said Friday he wants local officials in towns where centuries-old settlements of non-Moro ethnic Tedurays are being harassed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters since last month also monitored.
The BIFF uses the black Islamic State flag.
“These LGUs must be monitored. Local officials have a sworn duty to do their best in maintaining law and order in their turfs based on powers vested upon them by the Local Government Code,” Mangudadatu said.