Maguindanao’s Unas: “What shura?”

“What shura? I don’t even know what shura means,” Unas told MindaNews shortly before noon of June 6, hours before Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos  announced in a press conference in Manila the declaration of a failure of elections in Maguindanao’s 22 towns.

Team Unity won 12-0 in Maguindanao, with Ilocos Sur governor Luis “Chavit” Singson topping the race and the lone Muslim, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, as the 12th placer.

“I do not know (chuckles),” Unas said, adding, “pero hindi ko nga alam anong ibig sabihin ng shura eh. (But I don’t even know what shura means) [Laughs] You see? They’re putting words in (my) mouth. Who said that? I don’t know. I do not even know what shura, I do not even know what shura means. What I know is that people here are consulted. Not only during elections but every issue, every nook and corner of our whole life because we value consultation, we value respect (for) our leaders and our parents. If that is wrong by non-Muslims, so be it. To hell with them,” Unas said.

“Kung ayaw nyo respetohin magulang nyo, leaders niyo, pakialam namin. In the same manner, wag nyo kaming pakialaman” (If you do not want to respect your parents, your leaders, we won’t mind. In the same manner, don’t mind us).

Unas was quoted in newspaper reports as saying observers should look at Maguindanao’s distinct political reality in the context of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, and shura is part of these.

Unas said the outcome of the senatorial races in Maguindanao should be attributed to shura, the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Nash Maulana reported on May 17.

Maulana told MindaNews Unas it was Ustadz Mohammad Faried Sulaiman of the Bureau of the Madaris of the Department of Education who said “that’s the essence of shura.”  Maulana but he didn’t quote Sulaiman because Unas “was the only designated person to speak.”

The Assembly of the Da’rul Ifta of the Philippines in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has been adopting common themes for the Khutba (sermon) for a region-wide synchronized delivery every Friday and on April 26, the Khutba on Shura noted that it “certainly implies transparency, open-mindedness which can only happen with respect, trust, empowerment, freedom of expression, readiness to be criticized, and acceptance of divergent views.”

Unas told MindaNews on May 16 that there were no opponents in the 20 towns because Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan wanted to avoid trouble in the province. Elections are a major source of conflict.

He denied allegations that potential challengers were paid a million pesos each. He said the governor went around the province and asked potential challengers what he/she can offer better than the other in terms of governance and if he can’t, he would be asked how much money he was preparing for the campaign and be told to just keep the money and use it for non-electoral pursuits.

For ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, the absence of opposition in the province is “a sign of political maturuity.”

“In fact, one way to show that the people in the ARMM are politically mature enough is that here in Maguindanao, electoral contests used to be very difficult. But because of the good programs that we show our constituents, majority of the towns here in Maguindanao are unopposed. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)