DAVAO CITY — Secretary Abul Khayr D. Alonto, the first Muslim to head the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), died on the evening of May 9.
He was 73.
“A life dedicated to advance the lives of all Mindanaoans, Secretary Alonto selflessly and relentlessly fought for Mindanao until the end, a true warrior for development and advocate of peace,” MinDA said in a statement.
The Marawi City-born Mr. Alonto — one of the sons of the first Lanao del Sur governor and ambassador Abdul Ghaffur Madki Alangadi Alonto, and Bai Hajja Rasmia Indol Dangcal — was a rebel leader in his youth.
He headed the Lam Alif group, whose members and he would later become leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
“Secretary Alonto, in an unprecedented margin was elected as Vice-Mayor of Marawi City in 1972 and was subsequently awarded as the youngest city executive of the country during that year. As Acting City Mayor of Marawi in 1974, before being sworn in as the city’s chief executive, he joined his MNLF comrades and went ‘underground’ to fight against the abuses committed during the Martial Law regime,” reads his profile on the MinDA site.
By 1979, following the signing of the Philippine government-MNLF Tripoli Agreement in 1976, he participated in the institutionalization of the autonomous region in Mindanao.
He was appointed MinDA chair in September 2016 by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, his schoolmate at San Beda College.
Romeo M. Montenegro, MinDA’s deputy executive director, posted on his social media account that it was his honor to have shared Mr. Alonto’s vision and passion for Mindanao.
“You taught us to challenge our limits and to emulate your audacity to bring forth action. Mindanao has lost a fighter, and MinDA lost a leader,” Mr. Montenegro wrote.
In a text message to BusinessWorld, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Inc. President Arturo M. Milan said Mr. Alonto “will be remembered for his unwavering support for the chamber and the business community in Mindanao.”
As head of MinDA, Mr. Alonto pushed for key infrastructure projects and a more equitable share of the national budget for Mindanao.
One of the projects he was particularly excited about was the railway system, which he envisioned as a uniting tool for Mindanao.
In a forum in November 2017, Mr. Alonto said: “If a person can have his breakfast in Zamboanga, eat his lunch in Iligan, then dinner in Davao, that is the one, connected and united Mindanao we envision. That is home.” — Carmelito Q. Francisco