The political landscape of the Philippines has shown us that those who dare to transition into politics can make it, if only in name. Many popular personalities have dared to run in an election and have won government positions. Many activists, athletes, and even actors (especially actors) have tried and succeeded in earning a seat in government, regardless of actual knowledge or experience in public service.
Quite predictably, not all of them have managed a successful transition into being genuine public servants and having a voice that is truly representative of the people.
Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman is one of the few who have succeeded in making this transition, way beyond title and position.
Cong. Dadah, as she is called by those whom she works with, didn’t start her professional life by seeking out a career in politics. She was once a college student taking up biology in the Western Mindanao State University, and then became a law student who found herself elected as an officer of the Moro Human Rights Center, a non-governmental organization that conducts human rights workshops and monitors human rights violations in Mindanao.
She would soon start her own non-governmental organization called Pinay Kilos or PINK, a women’s organization that focused on empowering women in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi. It spearheaded workshops specifically tailored for women, with a range of topics that involved gender issues and women’s rights. It prided itself in being an organization that believed in “the potential of fullness in every woman” and the “importance of women inside and outside the home.”
Her career in government began in 2010, when she was appointed executive director of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos. Three years later, she was chosen by Anak Mindanao (AMIN), to be the partylist’s first nominee in the 2013 elections.
The rest, as they say, is history.
During her time in Congress, she consistently represented the Bangsamoro people by pushing for legislation that clearly respond to needs that are specific to the Bangsamoro, without compromising response to the needs of the Filipino people as well. She has pushed for the establishment of women and child friendly spaces in evacuation centers; the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, and other status; and the promotion of positive discipline of children.
She has also constantly stood for human rights, especially the rights of women as she constantly raised awareness about the meaning of the hijab, ensured the safety and welfare of women in conflict-affected areas, and was a vocal advocate of the Reproductive Health Law.
As a Bangsamoro woman, she was also at the forefront of asserting her people’s right to self-determination by being an avid but critical supporter of the peace process. Her most recent contribution is in her participation as a co-author in drafting of the House of Representatives’ newest version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
On October 2, 2017, she bid her Congress seat farewell as she delivered a heartfelt speech about how her heart has longed to be “back home.”
Home, to Cong. Dadah, is a place where she can speak and be heard, not as “a person of influence and power” but simply as herself. It is a place where she is spoken to “without the barrier of a title or a position,” but just as herself.
She left Congress, not so she can be silent, but so she can speak as she always has, in the hopes of magnifying the voice of the Bangsamoro people.
To Cong. Dadah, leaving Congress means coming home to a place where she can be truly of service to the Bangsamoro. But, to the Bangsamoro people, Cong. Dada has never left that home that she speaks of.
Through the years, her office and her title may have changed in a number of ways, but her heart and her voice has remained the same. She has always been with the Bangsamoro people and, if there is anything we have learned from her years in public service, it’s that her place in our hearts and the region we all call home will never change.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.