The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was devolved to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by virtue of Republic Act 6734, otherwise known as the Organic for Muslim Mindanao, as amended by Republic Act 9054 or the Expanded Autonomy as a result of the MNLF-GRP Final Peace Agreement of September 1996.
The act was signed into law by the President Corazon C. Aquino on August 1, 1989 and ratified in a plebiscite called for the purpose in November 1989 among the thirteen (13) provinces in Mindanao.
Results of the said plebiscite revealed that only four (4) provinces opted to join the autonomy, namely: Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Finally ratified, the Act officially created the Autonomous Regional Government providing for its basic structure as a distinct geo-political entity in Mindanao.
A little over a year after the Act was ratified, and the ARMM government began to function and form its organizational structure in accordance with the provisions of the Autonomy Act. The late President Corazon C. Aquino signed Executive Order No. 425 on October 12, 1990 devolving certain national agencies to the Autonomous Region.
Finally, on October 28, 1990, the DSWD National turned over its powers and functions to ARMM, especially the management, control and supervision of its programs and services, thus officially devolving the social welfare department to ARMM.
The first ARMM Regional Governor, the Honorable Zacaria A. Candao, appointed Bai Monera F. Pendatun-Matalam as the Regional Secretary of the Department making her the first highest official of the DSWD-ARMM. Bai Monera Pendatun-Matalam was also the first to lay down the groundwork for the department’s operational machinery.
However, she did not stay long to finish her term of office when she opted to run for gubernatorial race in the Province in Maguindanao in May 1992 synchronized National and Local Elections.
To fill up the vacuum and ensure continuity of the department’s programs and services, Regional Governor Candao designated Dr. Abas A. Candao as Officer In-Charge. Eight months later, Dr. Mustapha Usman was designated as OIC-Regional Secretary of the department. His term office ended when Regional Governor Candao lost to Lininding P. Pangandaman during the March 1993 ARMM elections.
When ARMM Regional Governor Lininding P. Pangandaman officially took the helm of the ARMM leadership, he appointed Bai Soraya R. Pacasum as Regional Secretary making her the second top official of the department.
Prof. Nur P. Misuari, Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front succeeded Regional Governor Pangandaman as Governor of ARMM on September 30, 1996. Prof. Nur Misuari, who forged the final peace agreement with the government in September 1996, was anointed by Malacanang for the ARMM gubernatorial race, but his election as Regional Governor was uncontested.
When Regional Governor Misuari took over the ARMM leadership, he appointed Hadja Nadjemah Moki-in Salic Malna as Regional Secretary of DSWD-ARMM making Secretary Malna as the third Regional Secretary of the department. Regional Governor Misuari held his post for an extended term until the ARMM elections of November 2001 in which Dr. Parouk S. Hussin won the ARMM gubernatorial post. Regional Governor Hussin appointed Hadja Bainon G. Karon as Regional Secretary of the department. Regional Secretary Karon officially assumed office on February 17, 2002 making her the fourth Regional Secretary of the department.
Regional Governor Parouk S. Hussin was succeeded by Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan, who was elected in 2005. Regional Governor Ampatuan first appointed Ruby Sahali, then Bai Rackma A. Imam, and then Bai Soraida Biruar-Ampatuan, making them the 5th , 6th and 7th Regional Secretary of the ARMM’s social welfare department, respectively.
The infamous incident that took place in Maguindanao in November 2009, particularly at the Municipality of Ampatuan has promptly triggered a new change of leadership in the region. ARMM Vice-Regional Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong became the Acting Regional Governor and appointed his Cabinet Secretaries. As a consequence, he designated DSWD-ARMM’s Assistant Regional Secretary Hadja Pombaen Karon-Kader as Acting Regional Secretary of the department, thus making her as the 8th Regional Secretary of the department.
The clamor for the expanded autonomy became more intense as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) invoked the Tripoli Accord during the Marcos Regime, which agreement covers thirteen provinces and cities in Mindanao. In response, Congress enacted Republic Act 9034 for an expanded autonomy.
Again, a plebiscite was conducted in May 2002 to determine the expanse of the autonomy based on the people’s will. Results of this political exercise had shown that only two (2) areas, the Province of Basilan and the City of Marawi had decided to join the ARMM expanding a little the area of jurisdiction of the Autonomous Region into five (5) provinces and one (1) city.