MIND DA NEWS: Bet? Not End of Capitol Rigodon

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 23 January) — So, a P500-million capitol building of Maguindanao will rise in Buluan, the hometown of Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, reports MindaNews, January 20. The P500 million includes the P50 million for the 12-hectare site. Of the P450 million for the building, P300 million is from the P1.740 billion Land Bank loan of the provincial government, the P150 million from the province.

What the report did not clarify is this: The capital of Maguindanao is still Shariff Aguak (originally, Maganoy). The provincial government can transfer the capitol building but not change the capital which only Congress can do.

And more: this is the latest movement in the rigodon of capitols which started after the first division of the “Empire Province” and continuing only in Maguindanao depending on where the governor is from.

Question: Where next will the rigodon take the capitol?

When Cotabato was still the “Empire Province,” its capital was Cotabato Municipality, unchanged for centuries, even after it had become a chartered city on June 20, 1959. The capitol building was on PC Hill.

On June 18, 1966 when South Cotabato was created, the capital of the other portion of the “Empire Province” – still named Cotabato with the appellation “Mother Province” – was Pagalungan, the hometown of then Gov. Datu Udtog Matalam and Rep. Salipada K. Pendatun. The capitol complex was built there for the provincial government offices.

In 1970, with the Ilaga-Blackshirt atrocities raging, then Gov. Simeon A. Datumanong transferred the provincial government back to the capitol on PC Hill in Cotabato City. Pagalungan remained as the capital of the “Mother Province”. When Carlos B. Cajelo took over as Cotabato governor in January 1972, he held office at the PC Hill capitol.

On March 22, 1973, the “Mother Province” was split into three provinces: Cotabato or, popularly, (North) Cotabato (capital: Kidapawan), Maguindanao (capital: Maganoy, now Shariff Aguak), and Sultan Kudarat (capital: Isulan). The capitols of Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat have never been moved out of their capitals.

In the case of Maguindanao, Datumanong was appointed governor. The provincial capitol was constructed on his land about two kilometers west of the national highway. Upon the creation of Regional Commission XII on July 7, 1975, he was appointed commissioner. During his less than two years as governor, on complaints due to inconvenience by the provincial employees who were mostly from Cotabato City, the government offices were moved back to the PC Hill capitol only to be later returned to the Maganoy capitol.

Datu Sangacala Baraguir, mayor of Sultan Kudarat town, succeeded as governor. Not long after his appointment, he had the provincial government offices transferred again to Cotabato City.

After Baraguir, Datus Sandiale Sambolawan, Zacaria Candao (before and after his stint as ARMM governor) and Norodin Matalam, were elected governors. Candao, during his first governorship after Sambolawan, established the capitol complex at Simuay Crossing, Sultan Kudarat with Maganoy remaining as the provincial capital.

Contrary to the MindaNews report, the provincial government was moved to Shariff Aguak not in 1998 but in 2001. In 1998, Candao was reelected governor. After unseating Candao in 2001, Gov. Andal Ampatuan held office at Simuay Crossing. He transferred the provincial offices to Shariff Aguak after his convoy was ambushed at Quirino Bridge adjoining Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat on July 3, 2001. (By some reports, it was simulated.) As MindaNews reported, he built a “P120-million capitol complex near his private residence” along the highway.

Datu Andal, as he was popularly called, must have planned for his family to perpetually rule Maguindanao. With his third term to end in 2010, he picked his son, Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. of Datu Unsay, as his successor. Wanting him to run unopposed, he warned potential opponent Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu not to run. The latter’s refusal to heed the warning led to the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre of 58 including 32 journalists, Mangudadatu’s wife, his two sisters and two lawyers.

That was the tragic irony that put an abrupt end to the Ampatuan political rule, perhaps never to rise again. Mangudadatu won the governorship and is now running for his third term. The P500-million capitol building is a sign of his plan to perpetuate his family’s rule in Maguindanao? Will this happen and stop the rigodon de capitol?

He will win in the May 9 election? Will his anointed family successor win in 2019? Winning in Maguindanao provincial election depends on how dominant blocs align and realign.

In his 2010 run, Mangudadatu was virtually unopposed; a Mastura was his vice governor. In his 2013 reelection, he had a Sinsuat for his vice governor as Datu Tocao O.Mastura opposed him. He is still allied with the Sinsuats in his May 9 reelection. The Sinsuats may oppose him in the 2019 election if denied the governorship. The Ampatuans and the Midtimbangs can ally with the Sinsuats. Mangudadatu needs the support of other blocs to remain in power.

Back to rigodon de capitol, if a Sinsuat is governor will he or she hold office in Buluan? Will the provincial offices not be brought to Dalican, Datu Odin Sinsuat? If a Mastura or Baraguir is governor will the capitol not go back to Simuay Crossing? If one from the Matalam-Pendatun clan, will offices not return to Pagalungan? If an Iranun is elected, will the capitol not be located in Parang, Buldon, Matanog or Barira? Buluan is in the far edge of Maguindanao.

Unless the Maguindanao leaders change their political culture, the rigodon of capitols will not stop. The Pagalungan capitol complex rotted to the ground; that of Datumanong in Shariff Aguak was vandalized or cannibalized; that in Simuay Crossing is in state of deterioration; the Datu Andal edifice will soon suffer the same fate.

Will the gods be kinder to the Mangudadatu “state-of-art” capitol? Will the gods stop the rigodon? Who wants to bet?

[Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at [email protected].]