ARMM reveals P1 billion savings over 2 years

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COTABATO CITY— The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) disclosed its P1-billion savings from their 2012 and 2013 reform initiatives both in administrative and operational expenditures.

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ARMM was once criticized by the Aquino government for being a “failed experiment” due to alleged gross corrupt practices and mismanagements. “It’s amazing, worthy of writing for the book,” a radio reporter here said yesterday, referring to the record fund savings of the two agencies oft-criticized in previous years.

Regional Secretaries Jamar Kulayan of DepEd and Emil Sadain of DPWH did not have detailed figures on the breakdown of their accumulated savings published Friday by a daily broadsheet online.

But budget and finance personnel said the DepEd posted some P700-million savings from funds allotted to “ghost” teachers, students and even schools that were deleted from the “intensive cleansing” of the agency’s payrolls.

Counterparts from the DPWH said their agency saved some P300 million from stiff processes on awards and biddings of infrastructure projects and on spending of maintenance and operating expense funds in 2012.

“We abide by religiously the reform agenda of President Aquino for ARMM… So we ban bribes (traditionally called S.O.P.) and we supervise field projects implementation,” Sadain earlier told the Times.

Such reform initiatives “have paid off not only in terms of fund savings but more importantly in regaining public trust to the ARMM in general and DWPH in particular,” he added.

Bulk of the DPWH’s savings, with the consent of higher authorities, were used for the purchase of heavy equipment and survey service vehicles and for the construction of the district office building in Basilan and renovation of the regional office here, according to Sadain.

ARMM, which covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan, turned 24-year old last Nov. 20 in symbolic commemorative activities led by Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman.

In a press conference at the sidelight of the commemoration, Hataman reported the gains of reform initiatives in the regional bureaucracy, notably the DPWH and DepEd.

Hataman credited their achievements to the “utmost concern” of President Aquino III for ARMM, a geopolitical unit that will be integrated into the Bangsamoro juridical entity proposed in the government’s current peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The President had earlier tagged the ARMM as a “failed experiment” for autonomy due to graft practices highlighted by existence of “ghost” teachers, students, schools and projects. In Dec. 2011, he installed a set of caretakers led by Hataman to carry out his reform agenda in ARMM.

Hataman said the Presidential “utmost concern” was translated into his subsequent issuances that prompted the releases of subsidies for ARMM, notably in the maintenance, rehabilitation and improvement of highway networks in the region. The region had not received subsidies for national roads and bridges in before the Aquino administration, it was learned.

In recent press briefings here, Hataman and Kulayan also announced as part of their feats the release of P250-million to buy out with a government bank that had refused to grant loans to teachers due to past arrears.

They said they were also finalizing negotiations this month with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for the settlement of the P1.9-billion accumulated unpaid premium remittances of ARMM teachers that began piling up sometime in 1998.

Under the negotiations, the ARMM government and DBM would want to pay the P800-million principal arrears and GSIS to condone the P1.1-billion interests.

MOH I. SAADUDDIN

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