Mindanao Lawmakers elect Rep. Sema as House Deputy Speaker

In a caucus early this week, Mindanao lawmakers, Maguindanao 1st District Rep. Bai Sandra Sema was elected Deputy House Speaker for Mindanao.  

Officials of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) see better prospects for the southern peace process now that there is a deputy speaker for Mindanao in the House of Representatives who understands the intricacies of the now 45-year Moro rebellion, said a report by Philstar..

Rep. Sema and her husband, former Cotabato City Vice Mayor Datu Muslimen Sema both support Malacañang’s ongoing peace overture with the MILF, which splintered from the MNLF in December 1977.

In the 16th Congress, Rep. Sema, along with Anak Mindanao Party-list Rep. Sitti Djalila  Hataman and other pro-peace lawmakers pushed hard for the passage of the GPH-MILF mutually-agreed version of Bangsamoro Basic Law.

On June 30, this year, Rep. Sema refiled the BBL in the 17th Congess.  

On Saturday, Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay of Lamitan City said, she was elated with Sema’s election as deputy speaker in the House of Representatives. 

Mayor Furigay is known for her various programs propagating Muslim-Christian solidarity in Lamitan.

 “It augurs well with the efforts of President Rodrigo Duterte to empower Mindanao’s Muslim communities and involve them in governance to hasten the resolution of the Mindanao secessionist conflict,” Furigay said, as quoted by Philstar..

Sema, now in her third and last term as congresswoman, is also known for her being supportive of the peace programs of Mindanao’s top Catholic parochial leader, Orlando Cardinal Quevedo of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation.

The OMI is involved in many interfaith programs complementing the Mindanao peace process. Most of the parishes in the congressional district Sema is representing in Congress are run by OMI missionaries.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman on Saturday told The STAR via text message he is confident Sema will speak well in Congress on the issues and concerns besetting Mindanao’s Moro communities.

“Having a deputy speaker who is from the Bangsamoro community is something so positive for us,” Hataman said.

Hataman said he is optimistic Duterte will succeed in putting a negotiated closure to the decades-old Moro issue with the help of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who is from the First District of Davao Del Norte, and a deputy speaker, Sema, who is of Maguindanaon descent.  

A senior staff of ARMM’s Department of Trade and Industry, Susana Anayatin, said it would be easier for Congress now to link up with Mindanao’s Moro sector through Sema, who is a scion of a big Maguindanaon noble clan.

“We also have Speaker Alvarez who is a Mindanaon, the third highest elected official in the country. Most importantly, we have a president who is from Mindanao, who is of mixed Visayan, Lumad and Maranaw ancestry,” Anayatin said.

Anayatin is popularly involved in various peace-building projects in Cotabato City and in Maguindanao through the peace-advocacy entity Goldin Institute Philippines.