A lawmaker on Friday raised the need to track “missing funds” of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) before the proposed extension for the transition to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is pushed by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman is seeking records supposedly related to P107-billion ARMM funds which he said should be subjected to an “exhaustive midterm review” prior to the transition period to end in 2022, an election year.
His call was prompted by an allegation by a former ARMM minister charging its officials of “anomalous disbursements” for infrastructure projects.
BARMM Public Works Minister Eduard Uy Guerra claimed the amount covered for “projects within the jurisdiction of (the ARMM) that were left unfinished even after these were already fully paid.”
He said the funds for some infrastructure projects have been spent prior to the BARMM takeover in February 2019.
An in-depth review, Hataman said, is necessary before the BTA could propose for an extension its function’s expiration from 2022 to 2025. The BTA is now led by a majority of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members, “without prejudice to the participation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in its membership”.
Hataman said he is filing a House resolution on Monday to call for the review even as he welcomed the BARMM’s request for a special audit to probe over 3,000 projects in ARMM, which BARMM replaced in 2019.
The special audit, he said, will allow BARMM to identify obstacles encountered by the transition leadership in implementing various projects.
“And (we’ll) see where we can plug these holes and help,” Hataman, a former regional governor of ARMM, said.
Hataman defeated via a landslide MNLF founder and chair Nur Misuari in 2013. Misuari served as governor of ARMM from 1996 to 2001. The ARMM was created 1 August 1989 through Republic Act 6734.
He turned over his post to BARMM Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in 2019 after the MILF signed a peace pact with the national government, ending decades of secessionist attempts in Mindanao.
“I feel it is not wise to blindly decide to extend without looking at the very reasons for the call of extension and present concrete plans at addressing them,” Hataman stated.
“If we do not have a clear roadmap, how can we assess what are the insufficiencies and what is needed?” he said.
Hataman also urged House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco to exercise congressional oversight and conduct a midterm review of the implementation of Republic Act 11054, or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), and the peace agreement that led to the creation of BARMM.
“Let us take the opportunity to harmonize our figures. ARMM’s projects can be found on the website, they are transparent,” he said. “I am just wondering where was the P107 billion obtained when ARMM’s data showed that we only had P50-billion-worth of infrastructure projects from 2012 to 2018, or a total of seven years”.
“Let us open the books on this and see where the problem lies. If it is true that there are erring contractors, track and sue them. If there’s overpayment or errors made by ARMM, it has to be accountable,” he added.
“Transparency is the cornerstone of the ARMM administration, especially for these infrastructure projects. All projects under ARMM have their own respective websites and anyone can check, complete with drone aerial videos and their status,” Hataman said.
Under his supervision, about 10 erring contractors have been charged and blacklisted for irregularities in ARMM.
“If similar incidents are happening now that BARMM is in control, we should find out so we will know who should be charged. If there was overpayment or cases of corruption, they should identify it so it will be exposed,” he said.
“My point is simple: We need this midterm review to move forward. We cannot walk a straight path if we don’t know where we are and where we are going. Whatever the direction is, we need to find out, that’s the objective of the midterm review,” he noted.