ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, who joined a meeting of the Eastern and Western Mindanao commands, explained that because of the creation of new municipalities, relatives who used to run against each other at the municipal level won’t need to fight one another.
He cited the case of Maguindanao, which had only 18 municipalities in 1995. As of yearend of 2006, the province now has 33 provinces with the division of the bigger towns into more manageable sizes.
Ampatuan said the idea emanated from ocal leaders.
He pointed out that aside from helping prevent intense political rivalry that usually results in election- related violence, the smaller towns are also "easier to develop."
But October last year, the province itself was divided into two provinces, with the creation of the Shariff Kabunsuan province that used to be Maguindanao’s first congressional district. The second district now comprises Maguindanao.
The new province is composed of eight old and three new municipalities. The old towns are Barira, Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat and Upi. The new ones are Datu Blah Sinsuat, Sultan Mastura and North Kabuntalan.
Maguindanao province is left with the old municipalities of Ampatuan, Buluan, Datu Paglas, Datu Piang, Pagalungan, SK Pendatun, Shariff Aguak, South Upi, Sultan sa Barongis and Talayan. It was the old second congressional district of Maguindanao.
But from the 10 old towns have sprung 12 new ones — Mamasapano, Montawal, Talitay, Paglat, Datu Unsay, Rajah Buayan, Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Guindulungan, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Pandag and Mangudadatu. The last three were ratified only last Dec. 30.
Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan, the regional governor's father, heads Maguindanao while Bimbo Sinsuat was appointed governor of Shariff Kabunsuan.
Ampatuan said it cannot be denied that the region will continue to be plagued with "election hotspots".
He said, however, that election hotspots are not only a problem in the ARMM, but the rest of the country as well.
Ampatuan said the Commission on Elections and the Philippine National Police must come up with clear guidelines on managing election-related violence in the region.
He said he has appealed to all politicians in the region to help the government maintain peace and order during the elections. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)