Ismael Veloso Mastura, the reluctant candidate

SHARIFF AGUAK , Maguindanao (MindaNews/16 May) – If Ismael “Dustin” Veloso Mastura, 39, had a choice, he would be happy running for vice mayor of Sultan Kudarat town. But fate would lead him to run for and win against the 68-year old warlord, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.

His uncle Tucao, who would have been proclaimed governor of Shariff Kabunsuan province in the 2007 elections but for a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court and the latter’s declaring its creation unconstitutional, had filed his candidacy for mayor of Sultan Kudarat town when Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who was running for Governor, sought the Masturas for a running mate.

At that time, Bai Idang Mastura, Tucao’s daughter, had also filed for vice mayor of Sultan Kudarat; and another uncle, Armando Mastura had filed his candidacy for mayor of Sultan Mastura town.

Dustin’s younger brother, Ishak or Cocoy, a lawyer, would not want to run, either, says younger sister Mariam, a prosecutor in DavaoCity. Mariam says Ampatuan Sr. then Maguindanao Governor, was Ishak’s first employer after his stint with the Siguion-Reina Law Office in Manila. After the province, Ishak served under ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan.

Both Ampatuan father and son are now detained in Bicutan for multiple murder charges in connection with the November 23, 2009 massacre of at least 58 persons, 32 of them from the media.

The eldest son of Moro intellectual Datu Michael Ong Mastura and Professor Lourdes Japson Veloso of Cebu, was left with no choice when his uncle Tucao informed him during their Hajj in Mecca in late November that he would run for vice governor.

His mother, Lourdes, says if his son had a choice, he would run for barangay captain instead.

“Yes. Because it’s easier to please a few people,” Dustin told MindaNews.

The reluctant candidate, a graduate of BA Political Science from the De La Salle University in Manila, has a post-graduate degree from the International Islamic University in Malaysia. Dustin was also chair of the Board of Directors, Cotabato-Local Water District, and Executive Vice President of the Sultan Kudarat Islamic Academy Foundation (SKIA).

His first stint in politics was in 2007 when he ran for provincial board member of Shariff Kabunsuan. He won but was unable to sit because the province was abolished.

He and the other Esmael – Mangudadatu – are facing tough challenges ahead. Majority of the officials in the 36 towns affiliated with the Ampatuans. Majority of the provincial board members whom he will head as vice governor, are also affiliated with the Ampatuans.

The Mangudadatu-Mastura team promised the Maguindanaons health and education, livelihood through plant now and pay later schemes, and support to the peace process.

Dustin’s father, Datu Michael, is a former Constitutional Convention delegate and congressman of the first district of Cotabato City-Maguindanao. The elder Mastura is now senior member of the peace negotiating panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Asked how it felt to defeat a political warlord, the neophyte politician and reluctant candidate, gave an off-the-record comment before saying, “the people love us and support us. “ (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)