BARMM gives livelihood to widows
CARMEN, COTABATO — Zokria Abas, 47, lost her husband, a fighter for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in what was described as a fierce “pocket battle” with government troops in Buliok, Pikit town in Cotabato province, in 2014—ironically at a time when a peace agreement was finally being firmed up.
Almost a decade later, at a community program in Barangay Manarapan here on Thursday, Abas recounted her own struggles as a widow and a farmer single-handedly raising a family.
More aid promised
“It’s hard to lose a husband while you have four young children,” she told the Inquirer, recalling the hardship of those years at Barangay Tupig in Carmen town.
For offering their lives in the pursuit of Bangsamoro freedom, some 200 MILF fighters were honored by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) through the grant of livelihood and financial assistance to their widows.
The aid program is being implemented through the BARMM’s Ministry of the Interior and Local Government.
Holding back tears, Abas received P50,000 in cash from Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, who said the aid was part of the BARMM’s Bangsamoro Integrated Rehabilitation and Development Program specifically intended for the freedom fighters’ widows.
“This is timely because my two kids are in college and I have the money now to pay for their tuition,” said Abas, now a member of Tupig’s village council.
“The Bangsamoro government is aware of our struggles. This is only the beginning of the many other forms of aid that we were promised,” she added.
Sinarimbo led the distribution of aid to the widows who came from the villages of MiDsayap and Carmen towns. The payout was held at the government center in Barangay Manarapan.
“The Bangsamoro Government cannot replace the lives of our former comrades in the Bangsamoro struggle. However, this assistance from the government of BARMM with the help of the BIRD program is expected to help the livelihood of the mujahideen widows,” Sinarimbo said.
The minister underscored the importance of meeting the immediate needs of the widows while assuring them of more sustainable, long-term development programs that would ultimately raise their standard of living.
Sinarimbo spoke plans to organize them as a cooperative and also reported the ongoing construction of a public market where the widows can set up shop.
“After a long time, it is only now that we are able to experience receiving a lot of projects, that is why we are thankful to the BARMM leadership,” said Ingco Dalid, the Manarapan village chief.
Ingco noted that aside from the aid given to the widows, the village of about 6,000 people now has a new barangay hall, a health station, a public market and paved roads.
“About 70 percent of our people are farmers, hence improvement of our roads is a big help to them,” he added.
Through a block grant from the national government, which accounts for 5 percent of national revenues, the BARMM has been accorded more resources compared to the previous autonomous government setup, allowing it to spend more on public infrastructure that in turn improved the delivery of social services.
At the Bangsamoro parliament, under consideration is a measure setting up a pension system for former mujahideen.
The BARMM is the product of the historic peace agreement reached by the MILF and the government in 2014, ending over four decades of secessionist rebellion in Mindanao.