By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) has offered its personnel services to the Department of Social Services and Development (DSWD) in the distribution of relief goods in the field, particularly in areas with Muslim residents reportedly not reached by government assistance in the current VODID-19 crisis.
NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan expressed the offer in a letter dated April 6 for DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista, stating that there are over eight million Muslim people in areas outside the Bansamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
In his letter, copy furnished with The Manila Bulletin, Pangarungan mentioned about “many complaints we receive from Muslim communities nationwide narrating that they failed to receive relief or aid from DSWD.”
“We at NCMF volunteer our services to coordinate with and/or assist your good office in relief distribution and other assistance to the different Muslim communities (outside BARMM),” he said his request to Sec. Bautista.
NCMF, Pangarungan said, is a “national agency mandated by law to preserve and develop the culture, tradition and well-being of Muslim Filipinos, and has 11 regional offices and 10 field offices all-over the country.
Dr. Dimapuno Alonto-Datu Ramos Jr., External Affairs Bureau Director and spokesman of NCMF, said their agency has regular manpower for normal operations but lacks capital outlay or fund subsidy for emergency situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the advent of community quarantine in different regions of the country, NCMF has been extending dismal aids on cases-to-case basis to complaining Muslim residents, particularly those stranded in local lockdowns, he said.
Datu Ramos cited the plight of 25 Muslim families who participated in a trade exhibit in Rosario, La Union and have been stranded in makeshift shelters.
The 45 exhibitor-families were “forced to remain in their vending area due to the lockdown, and complained that no relief assistance from the LGU or any government agency was extended to them since the lockdown started,” he said.
He said NCMF-North Luzon and Baguio team led by Administrative Services Director Abdullah Macarimpas went to the rescue of the 25 families, dispersing relief goods donated by Dr. Khadeeja Ambor, an NCMF staff.
He said Macarimpas’ team was “the firs group” to ever assist the stranded families, including minor children, eve as he posted in Facebook several photos of the beneficiaries.
Other NCMF teams had also monitored stranded vendors in Aringay, La Union; Asingan, Pangasinan; and Lupao, Nueva Ecija, Datu Ramos said, pointing out relief foods allotted for them were for a couple days.
Two groups of Muslim Filipino tabligh (Islamic preaching) members were stranded in Zamboanga City and in Luzon. The groups included over 50 people, who received dismal relief foods donated by NCMF-Region 9 Director Zulfikar Abatas and his counterpart in Luzon.
Meanwhile, a group pushing for Bangsamoro government’s external services said it has launched donation drive for relief assistance to Muslims outside BARMM.
Bothe the professional’s group and the NCMF have urged the national government to ensure that Muslim Filipinos can receive the social welfare amelioration funds allocated through the DSWD and DOLE in the current crisis.
“They are human beings and Filipinos, too, deserving what the government earmarked for counterparts from other faiths,” said Salman Ranaw, an advocate for BARMM external services. (Ali G. Macabalang)