COTABATO CITY: Residents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and Cotabateños have expressed support for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s message of hope and resilience amid the continuing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
In several interviews with residents and officials here, the majority gave the President an 8 out of 10 rating in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) aired live on PTV-4 national television nationwide.
BARMM officials expressed their gratitude to Duterte for the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law that created the one-year-and-four-month-old expanded region that replaced the decades-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“We are expressing our appreciation to President Duterte for this very significant accomplishment of establishing the BARMM, which is a result of more than five decades of struggle of the Bangsamoro people,” BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said as he watched the SONA 2020 at the BARMM administrative center here.
Though the President did not mention the BARMM in his speech, Ebrahim said the establishment of the young region would remain as one of Duterte’s legacy while in office.
“We pray that the BARMM will continue to succeed for the benefit of the people,” he said.
Bangsamoro Transition Authority’s House Speaker Ali Pangalian Balindong likewise recalled the “significant strides” of the one-year-old regional government since the President’s passage of the BOL, describing him as “the savior of peace in the Bangsamoro.”
“The Bangsamoro people are ever grateful for the unprecedented decision of the President to recognize our aspirations. No other president has the grasp of the Muslim problem and recognized the historical injustices against the Muslims,” Balindong said.
Since the inauguration of the BARMM in March last year, regional leaders established Project Tabang, AMBAG Program, Bangsamoro Job Portal, and other programs for the benefit of its constituents.
“These are challenges that we continue to address because they are our people and we need to serve them with the help of the national government,” Ebrahim said.
Meanwhile, residents here also backed the President in all his initiatives to counter the spread of Covid-19.
“If we have to fight, fight together against Covid-19,” said Nelson Yu, a school supplies and services entrepreneur.
Yu said he believes in the President because of his “practical and timely approach” to national issues, as well as his “deep knowledge of the intricate problems” of Mindanao.
“Duterte is the President of our country. He knows what is best for us,” he said.
Another city resident, 39-year-old Thelma Esparagoza, said she is happy that Duterte warned the big telecommunications companies to improve their services or close down.
“We have been suffering from snail pace Internet services. I hope by December, the speed has improved,” Esparagoza, a hardware company employee, said.
Roger Alex Pastidio, a taxi driver here who stopped working for two hours to listen to Duterte’s 5th SONA, said, “I appeal for all to support the government’s efforts to put an end to Covid-19. President Duterte cannot do it alone. He needs us.”
(Albashir Saiden, Edwin Fernandez and Noel Punzalan/PNA/SRNY/RSP)