MANILA--Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba on Wednesday angered Muslim leaders when he connected peace and order in the province to the alleged absence of Muslims there.
Mamba made the remark as he tried to convince lawmakers to rehabilitate the Cagayan River to entice tourists and investors there.
"If we dredge the river, restore the Cagayan River to its old glory, I think Cagayan and the North will enjoy so much advantage, as much as economic activity of Luzon is concerned," Mamba said in a Senate hearing on flood control projects.
"We do not have Muslims here. Wala kaming problema as far as peace and order is concerned here."
Hours after Mamba's remark, the Cagayan Public Information Office issued an apology.
"Nililinaw po ni Gov. na ang ibig niyang tukuyin ay 'Walang paniniwalang extremism sa mga kapatid na Muslim na naninirahan sa Cagayan'," the office said in a social media post.
(Gov. Mamba clarifies that what he wanted to refer to was that there were "no extremists among our Muslim brothers and sisters here in Cagayan.")
"Kaugnay nito ay muling humihingi ng paumanhin si Gov. Mamba kung ibang konteksto ang ibinunga ng kaniyang pahayag sa Senate committee hearing."
(In line with this, Gov. Mamba is sorry if his statement during the Senate committee heating gave a different context.)
Bangsamoro Parliament member Zia Alonto Adiong denounced Mamba for his comment, but later acknowledged his apology.
"Seriously, who would ever think that way except bigots?" he said in a tweet.
"I have a surprise for you, Governor, we’re everywhere! Don’t be scared because we do have Muslim policemen and soldiers as well to keep us all safe and protected," he said.
"We do have Muslim Governors doing exactly the same job as Gov. Mamba," he said.
Adiong reminded Muslims they should "not allow people to tell you 'you are the problem'."
"You are a Muslim. You have all the right as a citizen of this country, under this constitution, to choose to live wherever you see fit," he said.
"There are Muslim diplomats, Muslim businessmen, Muslim doctors, Muslim scientists, Muslim inventors, Muslim academicians, Muslim legislators and so on. You name it, we have it," he said.