Q and A: ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan: “ARMM voters are now politically mature”

Across the 27-kilometer stretch of the highway from the boundary of Shariff Kabunsuan to the boundary of Sultan Kudarat province, not a single poster or any campaign paraphernalia of the Genuine Opposition could be seen.

Instead, one sees huge posters and billboards of  the father-and-son team, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., who is seeking a third term sa governor and his son Datu Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan,  as vice governor

Datu Andal is Datu Zaldy’s father while Datu Sajid is his brother

Several other siblings and relatives are running for other posts within the 22 towns of Maguindanao. Of 22 towns, candidates in 20 towns are unopposed. Only  the candidates in Pagalungan and Talitay have opponents but, according to Datu Zaldy, they’re still “pro-administration.”

He answered MindaNews’ queries while waiting for the Datumanongs to finish voting. The answers in Pilipino have been translated to English.

Q: Did the division of Maguindanao into two provinces – Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan help in making the election here rather quiet?

A: Yes, basically the creation of Shariff Kabunsuan province out of the province of Maguindanao is a major thing because first, it has helped in having a  smooth election; second, it is easier to develop Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan and third, we can give our brothers a chance to head their own government unit

Q: Have there been reports of untoward incidents in the six  provinces of the ARMM?

A. The montoring team as of this morning said there’s a minor problem in Marawi City but voting has reportedly been smooth)

Q. What about Sulu?

A. Maganda rin ang monitoring. Sa Sulu, so far so good

Q. The other areas?

A.  None yet but every now and then, there’s a direct communication with the monitoring team.

Q. Sir, in the 2005 ARMM elections, the issue on multiple 2005 registrants had not been resolved then and

A. Actually we have the Comelec to do the proper work and we will give them our trust and confidence to be able to resolve that issue.

Q: So it’s not yet resolved.

A: I think we can ask Comelec. The problem is already with them.

Q: I noticed along the way there has not been a single GO poster. So this is definitely a TU country?

A: Actually, Maguindanao province is an extension of the home province of Her Excellency, PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) which is Pampanga. Here in Maguindanao, considering that we have 20 mayors unopposed,  these 20 mayors are allies of the administration, even those areas with opponents – Pagalungan and Talitay – the opponents are all allies of the administration.

Q:  So this is definitely 12-0 here?

A; Basically ganon ang mangyari pero iba ang sabihin ng 12-0. Ang meaning kasi ng 12-0 sa amin dito is yung first 12 candidates na boto ay in favor of Team Unity yung Opposition makakuha from 13 down to the last.

Q: Can you say the same of the provinces of the ARMM

A: Actually in the other provinces of ARMM — in Basilan,  considering that the opponents are influential – Gerry (Salapuddin) and the wife of Governor (Wahab) Akbar, the two parties are allies of the administration. In Tawi-tawi, Gov Sahali and opponent, Rashidin Matba, in Sulu,  we have Gov Benjamin Loong. He is running for reelection against Sakur Tan and Nur Misuari. All of these candidates are supporting the Team Unity ticket of the administration. In Lanao del Sur, all the four candidates there for governor support Team Unity.

Q: So more or less, considering ou have one of the biggest regions in Minda

A: We have 1.3 million voters.

Q: Which can make or unmake the national candidates?

A: Palagay ko hindi gaano pero malaking factor dito sa Mindanao na makakuha ng majority of votes yung ticket ng Team Unity.

Q: But what about those criticisms that within the ARMM, because of the Hello Garci

A: Well we cannot prevent the opinion of the opposition.  Considering we are a democratic country, they can campaign. What is important is we can rectify the negative impression that here in the ARMM, there is cheating.

Q: So this election will prove it? 

A: Yes. Because the people will speak

Q: You’re saying this is a very crucial election as far as proving that the ARMM is not what as the opposition or critics say is a cheating region?

A: Yes. 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 herein Maguindanao are unopposed.

Q: Sharif is also unopposed?
A: Only one is unopposed – the mayor of Datu Odin Sinsuat. There rest have opponents.