COTABATO CITY -- The country's Muslim religious leaders were urged to give President Benigno Aquino III ample time to consider their concerns about the appointment in government of qualified professionals and technocrats from their community.

This came after reports floated that a group of imams is preparing to hold protest actions to dramatize their grievance against the present administration.

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Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong and National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) chief executive officer Omera Dianalan-Lucman aired the plea to the imams.

"In the spirit of patience and understanding as prescribed in the current fasting month of Ramadhan, let us give the Aquino administration the chance to address our concerns in due time. We believe our President has big heart for the Muslims and he will listen to us," said Adiong, whose late father was close ally of the elder Aquinos.

Adiong said his administration is rallying efforts for the realization of the provisions of the 1996 peace accord between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which prescribe for the devolution of some national line agencies to the Armm governance and the appointment of qualified Muslims to the national bureaucracy.

In separate statement, Dianalan-Lucman said there were reports that a group of Muslim religious leaders led by Grand Imam Jamil Yahya planned to stage a rally to protest the exclusion of qualified Muslim professionals and technocrats from the Aquino cabinet, in alleged disregard of the 1996 peace accord provisions.

"I appeal to all concerned that the mass action be done with greater circumspection as the new administration is still in its honeymoon stage," she said.

She pointed out that the government has already appointed two Muslim professionals, Dimas Pundato as undersecretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and Zebidden Azis as assistant secretary of the Department of Justice.

Pertinent papers of qualified Muslims that were endorsed to the Office of the President by certain groups and personalities are being evaluated and processed, Lucman said.

She was hopeful the President will follow his late mother's lead and appoint Muslims to key positions, like when she named former Sen. Mamintal Tamano as Department of Foreign Affairs undersecretary and the late Gov. Mamintal Adiong of Lanao del Sur as Department of Public Works and Highways undersecretary.

"We know that there are many qualified Muslim professionals who shall be appointed to many [key] government positions," Lucman said, adding this may happen in due time.

Vice Chair Hadji Kairan Suhaili of the MNLF's Palawan State Revolutionary Committee urged the President to excel where his predecessors failed in fulfilling the 1996 accord's provisions for the sake of national unity.

"[President] Aquino should tap qualified Muslim professionals to responsible positions in government, just like what past presidents did," he said. "After all, he is the President of all Filipinos, including Muslims."

The accord, which former president Fidel Ramos and MNLF chair Nur Misuari inked on September 2, 1996, bears provisions on the right of representation and participation of the Muslim Filipinos in the national government. (Ben O. Tesiorna, Correspondent)