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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Former Bangsamoro region senior minister Abdulraof Macacua said he never aspired to become the first governor of the newly created Maguindanao del Norte province.
But on Wednesday, April 5, the known Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) mujahideen, popularly called “Commander Sammy Gambar,” was sworn in as officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Office of the Governor of Maguindanao del Norte before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Malacañang.
Macacua, who used to be the commander of the MILF’s armed wing, reported for work on Tuesday, April 11, at what used to be the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) in Cotabato City, the regional center of the Bangsamoro region.
Jordan Sergio Bayam, Presidential Adviser for Peace Reconciliation and Unity assistant secretary, said Marcos consulted many people before appointing an OIC governor for Maguindanao del Norte to ensure that the right person would be selected for the job.
Macacua’s appointment was welcomed by leaders of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), headed by interim Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim, and many officials of Maguindanao del Norte.
During a kanduli (thanksgiving event) in his hometown in Gambar, Northern Kabuntalan on Sunday night, April 9, Macacua disclosed that BARMM officials had submitted to Malacañang the names of two town mayors to lead the new province.
He said they had recommended Parang Mayor Ibrahim Ibay as governor and Datu Blah Sinsuat Mayor Marcial Sinsuat as vice governor. However, Malacañang turned down the proposal and appointed Macacua instead.
Macacua recalled that it was Anton Lagdameo Jr., the special assistant to the President, who first suggested his appointment as OIC governor during a meeting of Cabinet members, security officials, and Maguindanao del Norte mayors in Davao City.
He said the selection process was a “long and tedious journey,” and he accepted the offer after checking with Ebrahim and national government officials if there was a consensus.
Macacua promised to implement projects quickly and work toward making the new province the “best performer” of BARMM.
He also said his administration would prioritize transparency, accountability, coordination, and cooperation.
Ebrahim expressed both happiness and sadness over Macacua’s appointment, saying, “Maguindanao del Norte is in good hands now. That was why I decided to sacrifice and let him go for a bigger cause.”
Meanwhile, seven town mayors of Maguindanao del Norte, including Ibay and Marcial Sinsuat, took their oath before Ebrahim as new members of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), the MILF’s political party, during Sunday’s kanduli.
The mayors included Mother Kabuntalan Mayor Salaban Diocolano, Buldon Mayor Pahmia Manalao, Northern Kabuntalan Mayor Ramil Dilangalen, Matanog Mayor Zohria Bansil-Guro, and North Upi Mayor Rona Cristina Piang Flores.
Macacua’s appointment dislodged former Maguindanao vice governor Fatima Ainee Sinsuat, who had assumed the governorship without a presidential appointment or the green light of the BARMM regional government.
Ainee, however, was appointed OIC vice governor of Maguindanao del Norte.
Maguindanao del Sur Governor Mariam Mangudadatu, however, expressed her objection to both Macacua and her appointment as OIC governors of the two Maguindanao provincial governments, arguing that she and her political ally, Ainee, had already taken on these positions after the division of Maguindanao several months ago.
Mangudadatu had appealed to Marcos to reconsider his decision and read the law that split Maguindanao into two political territories, adding that he was ill-advised by people who supposedly sowed intrigues. – Rappler.com
Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow, and Rommel Rebollido previously received the same fellowship grant.