Amid the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Marawi City, it was but fitting that Arman Ali Ghodsinia, whose roots could be traced there, stood in front of his fellow graduates at the University of the Philippines, Diliman on Sunday as “living proof” that he and others from the minority like him could do well in and contribute to society on a platform of “equality and mutual respect”.
“Here I am standing in front of you today as a living proof that members of minorities like us, Maranaos, can also do well and contribute effectively to the societal growth, if given the same opportunities and rights like many other Filipinos,” said Ghodsinia, whose mother hails from one of the four royal houses of Lanao del Sur and whose older sister, Farah, also graduated with honors from UP.
“We, members of the Filipino minority are your brothers and sisters too. And on equal platform and mutual respect, we can all work together towards a stronger and more united Philippines and I believe that one of the ways of achieving this is by improving our educational system and curriculum,” Ghodsinia said at the 106th commencement exercises of the state-run university.
Ghodsinia, a molecular biology and biotechnology graduate, urged his fellow graduates not to forget other Filipinos facing a major threat in the Mindanao. He also stressed that inclusive education could give them more opportunities.
This year’s commencement theme was “Pagmamalasakit: Empathy and caring for one another”.
Ghodsinia delivered his valedictory address a month after fighting erupted in Marawi City between government troops and the IS-linked Maute Group.
Soldiers were in pursuit of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has been on the US most wanted list. The Maute Group launched a series of attacks in support of Hapilon whom it recognized as its leader, especially in its plan to establish an independent state in Mindanao with the support of foreign terrorists. This “act of rebellion”, according to the government, prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the region.
As per military figures, more than a thousand people have been displaced and 300 killed among the civilians, police, military and Maute members.