Given the enormity of the governance problems that needed to be fixed in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Senator Franklin Drilon today urged Malacanang to appoint a “reformer” as officer-in-charge (OIC)-governor “who also possesses the combined skills of a diplomat, a graft-busting prosecutor and effective manager-bureaucrat.”

“Appointing a trapo (traditional politician) as governor of ARMM could negate all our efforts to institute reforms in that region. Malacanang should look beyond politics here because President Aquino himself is determined to bring about drastic reforms and good governance in ARMM,” said Drilon, principal author of a bill in Congress that postponed the ARMM elections and allowed the president to appoint OICs.

Drilon said the OIC-governor will face the enormous task of instituting reforms in ARMM such as eradicating graft and corruption, addressing the current breakdown of peace and order condition, improving the delivery of basic social services and cleansing the voters’ lists and the electoral process in the region.

It is for these reasons, Drilon noted, that he endorsed the appointment of former congressman and ambassador Macabangkit Lanto whom he said “possessed the combined skills of a diplomat, a graft-busting prosecutor and effective manager-bureaucrat.”

Aside from being a member of the House of Representatives and a Philippine Ambassador to Egypt and Sudan, Drilon noted that Lanto served as Justice undersecretary and Tourism undersecretary for promotions. Lanto also served as Speaker of the Second Regional Assembly for the then Autonomous Government for Central Mindanao for five years from 1982 to 1987.

“Lanto’s experience as a diplomat and as a tourism promotions undersecretary can be put in good use in restoring the prestige and the credibility of ARMM as a foreign investment destination and recipient of foreign development assistance,” Drilon said.

“His skills as a lawyer and a justice undersecretary will be handy when he eventually prosecutes the grafters and plunderers who once lorded it over the ARMM government and are responsible for the over P2 billion missing public funds as reported by the Commission on Audit,” Drilon further said.

“And of course, his 35 years of experience in public service must have familiarized him with the ins and outs of the bureaucracy and should make him an affective manager and administrator,” Drilon added.

Drilon warned that a less-experienced and academically prepared OIC governor would have a hard time bringing about progress and development to the Muslim Mindanao region.

Besides, Drilon explained that President Aquino’s Executive Order 51 which created the search committee stated that the applicants should be judged based on their “educational preparedness, experience, performance, accomplishments, reputation for honesty, integrity, incorruptibility, irreproachable conduct, and fidelity to sound and moral standards.”

Drilon pointed that that in his 35 years in government service, Lanto has not been accused of any corruption-related case.

Drilon said he was also impressed by Lanto’s pronouncement that he will not seek election in 2013 once he is appointed OIC-governor so that he could concentrate in instituting reforms.

Earlier, Lanto dared his co-aspirants to the post to make a public pledge not to seek election in 2013 “so that the OIC governor can concentrate in instituting the needed reforms free from any political accommodation and compromises.”

“If appointed OIC-governor of the ARMM by President Aquino, I will commit myself fully to implementing the needed reforms and I will not run for the same position in May 2013,” Lanto said. “I challenge the other aspirants to the post to make the same public pledge.”

Lanto is in the shortlist of contenders for ARMM OIC-governor submitted to Malacanang by Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.

Lanto said if appointed OIC-governor by the President, he would eradicate graft and corruption, strengthen the government institutions in the region such as the Commission on Audit and the Civil Service Commission, dismantle private armies and support the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He added he would also launch an all-out campaign against loose firearms and conduct an honest to goodness cleansing of the voters list to “reform the tarnished image of the election process in the region.”