Hataman: Apology accepted but Cagayan Gov must still explain comment on Muslims
MANILA, Philippines — Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman has accepted the apology made by the provincial government on behalf of Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba, who has issued a controversial remark about Muslims.
But the legislator from Mindanao still wants the Cagayan governor to personally explain his statement in order to avert any confusion.
Hataman said the pronouncement of Mamba – whom he considers a friend and brother – might give an impression that he was insulting Muslims.
He said Mamba’s remark might have been taken out of context as he believes the governor never harbored any anti-Islamic belief.
“Although an apology was issued by the province’s information office on the governor’s behalf, I feel that an explanation must come from him directly in order to clarify his comments, which may be construed as an affront to Muslims everywhere. It sets us back a long way in our struggle to root out discrimination that is deeply rooted in our culture,” Hataman said in a statement Thursday.
“Hindi ko siya nakilala bilang isang tao na may paniniwalang anti-Muslim. While I was contemplating on how to react to his statements, I felt that his words may have been taken out of context, or he was unable to use the right terms during the Senate hearing,” he added.
(I never knew him as a person with anti-Muslim beliefs.)
During a Senate hearing on the devastation that Cagayan has been suffering due to Typhoon Ulysses on Wednesday, Mamba discussed the possibility of dredging the Cagayan River to make it deeper and help avoid future flooding in the province.
But during the discourse, he made a side comment that the province does not have a peace and order problem because there are no Muslims in Cagayan.
The provincial public information office clarified the next day that what Mamba meant to say was that there is no Muslim extremism in the province – which usually leads to violent attacks – and was not referring to the religion, Islam.
Hataman is not the first to react to Mamba’s comment. Bangsamoro Transition Authority member Zia Alonto Adiong has refuted the association of Muslims to peace and order problems by noting that there are many professionals and peace-loving Muslims not just in the Philippines, but worldwide.
“There are Muslim diplomats, Muslim businessmen, Muslim doctors, Muslim scientists, Muslim inventors, Muslim academicians, Muslim legislators, and so on. You name it, we have it,” Adiong asserted.
Hataman nevertheless acknowledged that the apology of the provincial government’s information office on behalf of the governor was a first step towards “dousing the fire that was sparked by Gov. Mamba’s words.”
“Gov. Mamba’s statement – though appearing as one ‘slip of the tongue’ – was still an insult and a disrespectful remark to all Muslims, not only to those in Cagayan. A lot of people, especially Muslims, have heard and seen him make it,” he noted.
“This is the reason I encourage my good friend to explain the matter himself personally […] Dahil ako ay kumbinsido na hindi ito sinasadya ni Gov. Mamba kundi simpleng slip of the tongue lamang. Mismong mga kapatid nating Muslim sa Cagayan ang nagpapatunay nito,” he added.
(This is the reason I encourage my good friend to explain the matter himself personally […] Because I am convinced that Gov. Mamba did not intend to say this but it was only a simple slip of the tongue. Our Muslim brothers from Cagayan could attest to this.)
Cagayan experienced historic flooding after Magat Dam was forced to open its floodgates as Ulysses dumped torrential rain over the province, pushing dam water level to a critical point. This resulted in the inundation of many communities in Cagayan as well as in neighboring Isabela.
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