New Maguindanao leaders: ”we are not your masters but your servants”

BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/30 June) — Datu Esmael “Toto” Gaguil Mangudadatu and Datu Ismael “Dustin” Veloso Mastura and other provincial and municipal officials took their oath of offices shortly before noon today, with the new leadership promising “Totoong Pagbabago Para sa Maguindanaon” (Genuine Change for the Maguindanaon) through “consultative, participative and collective governance and transparent and accountable administrative policies without any form of oppression and violence.”

“We are not your masters but your servants,” Mangudadatu said in his 29-minute speech, one minute of that he asked the public to be quiet and offer prayers for his wife, Genalyn, two sisters and 55 others who were “martyred” during the massacre of November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, 32 of them from the media.

“Only non-violence can achieve a moral purpose without compromising it, especially if the purpose is Peace. It cuts through its objectives with the precision of a surgical knife, neatly excising the cancer form our body politic without damage to the surrounding tissue. The healing comes faster,” the 41-year old governor, clad in jusi barong, said.

“Help us make a new chapter in Maguindanao history,” said the 39-year old Mastura, who wore a tubao on his head.

The two young leaders were flanked by their mothers during the oath-taking at the grandstand of the Buluan town hall compound.

“We have a long way to go and it will be a hard climb uphill. I hope that just as you sympathized with us in our hard days of struggle, so you support us now in our efforts to rebuild our province to match our pride. As you channeled your power to undo a tyrant, so you may channel it now to help create an atmosphere of love and peace in Maguindanao,” said Mangudadatu, who in a press conference later, said that in their crusade for reconciliation and unification to achieve peace and solidarity, “I am the governor of the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Neither Mangudadatu nor Mastura will hold office at the relatively new provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, that peach and pink building whose office of the governor is so huge it has three living room sets, a mini conference room, a bedroom, dining room, kitchen and a Jacuzzi whirlpool bath.

Security considerations are preventing the two leaders from holding office there.
While waiting for the old capitol to be restored, Mangudadatu will hold office in a building across the road from the Buluan town hall “for very important reasons,” Mangudadatu had earlier said.

The new governor is not taking chances with his safety. Although the May 10 elections in Maguindanao were peaceful and defied predictions it would again emerge as the hotbed of political violence on election day, uncertainty still grips the province which remains in a state of emergency.

Fears for his security led Mangududatu to ride an Army Simba tank tailed by a convoy of security escorts from Buluan to the capitol, passing through the GenSan-Cotabato national highway, for his proclamation as governor-elect on May 14.

Mangudadatu told reporters waiting at the capitol he took this unusual mode of transport on the advice of Army officers. “For security purposes,” Mangudadatu said. “There were threats that bombs were placed along the highway and were set to explode when I passed.”

Mangudadatu will be holding office temporarily in what was originally intended to be a training center, across the street from the town hall compound, until the old provincial capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat shall have been rehabilitated.

Mastura and the Provincial board will be holding office at the ABC (Association of Barangay Captains) building within the compound of the Sultan Kudarat town hall.

The grandstand where the oath-taking was held had as backdrop a huge tarpaulin with “turnover ceremony” printed on it instead of the usual “inaugural rites.

Security was tight during the inauguration.

The province has been under an OIC Governor since January 2009 when then Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., resigned from his post, claiming he has no mandate from the people of Shariff Kabunsuan province, the province carved out of 11 Maguindanao towns but whose creation was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In his stead, Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, then the Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, named Vice Governor Sajid Ampatuan, his youngest brother, as OIC Governor and his brother-in-law Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan as OIC Vice Governor.

Sometime towards the latter part of the year, Andal Sr., returned as OIC Governor allegedly because Andal Jr wanted Sajid out. It is not certain if Andal Sr. had appointment papers as OIC Governor but the ARMM Governor in his press conference after the State of the Region Address a few days before the Massacre told reporters when asked who the OIC Governor was: “none other than our beloved governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.”

After the massacre, Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno named Bai Nariman Ambolodto as OIC Vice Governor and also as Acting Maguindanao Governor. Ambolodto served the post until businessman Gari Biruar took over late February. Biruar handed over the province’s symbolic key of responsibility and a Koran, to Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu told a press conference after lunch that he thinks the Shariff Aguak provincial capitol would be good for a hospital.

In his speech, Mangudadatu thanked the people for “your courage and vigilance by guarding and protecting your votes against all attempts to cheat you that made me won during the May 10 elections.”

He said the “concerted efforts “of the various sectors in the May elections “had eradicated the international and national impression of Maguindanao as cheating capital every election.”

He spoke of a Conflict Management Special Body “to be known as Council of Elders carefully selected from responsible citizens of Maguindanao” to “cater and address all conflicts among our brothers at the earliest time to avoid escalation.”

He vowed the new leadership would “support the GRP-MILF peace talks to achieve a meaningful and lasting peace in this part of the country.”

Mangudadatu said he wants to pursue a pending House Bill filed sometime in 1997 proposing a charter creating the Polytechnic College in Maguindanao.

At the press conference after lunch, he reiterated on his and Mastura’s platform of government which will focus on health and education.

He spoke of having sent to school this year, 388 college students at the University of Southern Mindanao and 200 more college students elsewhere.

He said he will request the Sangguniang Panlalawigan during its first regular session, “to appropriate fund for the immediate purchase of a mobile hospital which will serve our people in far flung localities where the services of our health personnel cannot reach.”

“It will be free of charge (for) any kind of treatment because it is the mission of this administration to have a healthy province.”

He spoke of improving the health centers and barangay boticas “to reduce maternal and infant mortalities as well as malnutrition rate.”

He said he will also pursue his program for the issuance of PhilHealth cards to “indigent families in the province.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)