Clan rivalry colors ARMM polls debate

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 18 2011 04:53 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2011 07:12 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Clan rivalry in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao seems to have spilled over into the debate over the postponement of the region’s August 2011 elections.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Toto Mangudadato, widower of 1 of the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre,  now wants the regional polls postponed as part of the political cleansing of the region.

The ARMM was once the power base of the Ampatuan clan accused of masterminding the massacre.

Mangudadatu said synchronizing the ARMM polls with the 2013 elections will pave the way for a cleansing of the region.

"Laging sinasabi na ang Maguindanao at buong ARMM cheating capital. Bakit di natin gamitin P1.2 billion nakalaan sa election ng ARMM sa pag-cleanse. I-reform natin. Biometrics para mawala command votes dahil nagkakaroon kami lagi ng utang na loob sa mga taong  nagde-deliver ng command votes. Kahiya-hiya palagi sa sinasabi sa amin ang pinaka-corrupt na rehiyon, probinsiya, local nanggaling sa rehisyon ng ARMM," he said.

Mangudadatu said he rallied his provincemates to sign a resolution backing the postponement of the regional elections. “Itong maliliit na constituents matagal na nilang minimithi na magkaroon kami ng transparent na governance. Di pa nila nakakamtan totoong serbisyo para sa taumbayan," he said.

Mangudadatu led 3 other provincial governors in calling for the postponement of the regional elections in a press conference in Malacañang.

Mangudadatu, Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali and Basilan Gov. Jum Akbar all signed a manifesto of support for the ARMM polls postponement and cited the non-performance of the ARMM government in responding to the needs of the people.

The governors are supportive of the bill postponing the elections, which was certified urgent by President Aquino.

Separately, Akbar showed a copy of the manifesto of her province’s other officials backing the postponement.

During the press conference, presidential spokesperson Edwin lacierda also read a text message from Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman Al haj Murad Ibrahim expressing his group’s non-objection to the postponement.

“We wish to inform you that the MILF imposes no objection to the postponement. Such a  move could have better atmosphere in crafting of peace agreement.”

Lacierda said: “ We’ve received scant reports from media about the true sentiment of  people in area regarding (the) postponement. Most media reports made it appear anti-postponement strong in those areas. This is why we’ve asked governors to come and share insights."

Tan said: “We have problems about governance. I’d like you to know I made consultation with my constituents, civil society NGOs including [the Moro National Liberation Front] and civic organizations and it was not only overwhelming majority but unanimous. I signed, vice governor signed, 12 of 16 board members signed. These are 18 mayors out of 19 who signed supporting House bill.”

Tan himself called for the abolition of the regional government. “Nasabi ko kay Presidente kung pwede tanggalin na nga ARMM. Alam ko ang nangyayari sa ARMM."

Sulu Vice-Governor Benjamin Loong is the older brother of Sulu 1st District Rep. Tupay Loong, who is opposing the bill.

Tan said Loong’s brother and nephews also signed to support the postponement.

Lacierda cited the case of the non-remittance of the ARMM government of GSIS members' contributions for teachers. This prevented the GSIS from releasing their calamity loans till President Aquino intervened.

Sahali said: “After years, there’s been some dissatisfaction from practically every sector of society."

Sahali said opposition to the ARMM polls postponement is coming incumbent officials. "Most of those strongly opposing postponement emanates from those regional elected officials and politically appointed officials who will be losing their job after September 30."

Lacierda and Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte both expressed hope the bill would be passed by the House before it goes on its summer vacation next week.

Lacierda sidestepped questions on the possible calling of a special session to tackle the bill.