‘It is a patriotic duty to serve the country’

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A former governor of Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines will gladly accept an invitation from President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to serve in the Cabinet of the country’s presumptive leader or in the Davao provinces.

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“Just to be invited by the President [is a huge privilege for me and my family]. If I were to be called right now by the President to serve [his official family]or in the Davao provinces, I would fly [there]immediately.” Ali Tillah told The Manila Times in an interview on Friday.

“As a citizen of this country, when you are called to serve, you have to serve because it is a patriotic duty to serve our country in whatever capacity, especially when you are called upon by your President,” the former governor pointed out.

Meanwhile, Tillah said he would vouch for a few of Duterte’s choices for seats in his Cabinet, in part because he knows the nominees personally.

According to him, he and former Agriculture Secretary Carlos Dominguez (given the Finance portfolio) and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Perfecto Yasay (Department of Foreign Affairs), were friends since their Young Men’s Christian Association days.

Tillah, who served as committee assistant of then-senator Helena Benitez in the late 1960s, also vouched for Salvador Panelo, the incoming Press secretary.

He said he has also known Panelo since their college days at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

When asked about Panelo’s critics, the former Tawi-Tawi governor replied, “Madami naman talagang bumabatikos since our time pa [He has been criticized since our time]. It’s not new. You judge a guy based on his competence, [I believe].”

Tillah said he agrees with Duterte’s plan for a shift to federalism from the parliamentary form at present.

Under a federal system, he explained, a city, for example, can exercise more independence than under a presidential form of government.

In 1984, or long before talk about federalism surfaced during the campaign in the May 2016 elections, Tillah disclosed that he, Salipada Pendatun (chairman) and Domocao Alonto (president) had organized the Muslim Federal Party, with him as Deputy Secretary General.

On Duterte’s decisions to pardon former President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo and to give the late former President Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, he said he supports both initiatives in the interest of national reconciliation.

“We are a divided country. The main task of governance is to unite our country so that we can move forward in unison,” Tillah noted.

That unity, he said, could be strengthened by some members of the administration Liberal Party reportedly joining the Duterte administration.

He, however, said he was disappointed by the reported refusal of young professionals who had been invited by the President-elect to join the Cabinet.

“I am sad to say the least. As the saying goes, many are called but a few are chosen, and if some people in this country are like that, then we are doomed,” Tillah added.

JED VILLARAMA

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