EVANGELICAL churches in Mindanao are taking the law into their hands, so to speak, by taking advantage of the Constitutional provision that allows party-list representation in Congress when it formed their own group to run in the 2010 elections.
Mindanao pastors around the middle of this year completed the formation of their party-list group they call “A Convergence for Mindanao Agenda” (ACMA), Zamboanga City’s Sea Gentiles for Christ Ministries head Rev. Pastor Bilang revealed. Its president is Gensis Udang, who is based in Cagayan de Oro City.
Zamboanga City’s pastors representing almost 200 churches voted Rev. Fe Tolentino of The Most High Place church as president of the city chapter.
ACMA is targeted to have 25 provincial and 28 city chapters, Bilang said. They will campaign to gain as many as three seats in Congress out of the votes of some 11 million voters in Mindanao. There are 12,500 churches in Mindanao, out of a total 51,000 in the country.
Bilang, who sits as auditor in ACMA’s city chapter, said he and his fellow preachers were prompted to vie for the congressional representation to remedy the perennial lack of budgetary and other forms of support by the Manila government to Mindanao. “While Mindanao contributes almost 20 percent to the nation’s wealth, it only receives back around 10 percent from the national budget”, the ACMA brochure claims.
Hence, it says, Mindanao is “home to RP’s poorest regions – ARMM, CARAGA and Region 9”. Seven of the 10 poorest provinces in the country are in Mindanao, too, it also noted.
Aside from working for a more equitable allocation of government funds, ACMA “will advocate for social justice and the virtue of self-reliance where every Mindanaoan will become stakeholder and contributor to the development of the island,” it said. It stresses inter-cultural and multi-sectoral cooperation towards the development of the region, Bilang emphasized.
In an interview, Rev. Tolentino said it is high time for Mindanaoans to “wake up” and join hands to work for the peace and development of Mindanao. She said partylist representation in Congress will hasten the achievement of these aspirations. She emphasized that placing “godly people” in the political sphere of the nation is one way to promote social justice.
Rev. Tolentino, who is a noted civic leader in Zamboanga as well, said Mindanao has a lot going for it in terms of natural resources. Citing figures compiled by ACMA, she said Mindanao is the tuna capital of the world; it has the largest deposits of iron, nickel, copper and deuterium; and among the largest deposits, too, of gold and oil.
Bilang said ACMA aims “to empower the Mindanaoans to be more participative in charting the course and direction of the Mindanao island”. It will also work “to promote godly governance in the government by advocating principled leadership, transparency and accountability in the political leadership of the country”, ACMA said.