BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/20 October) – He would have delivered his State of the Province Address (SOPA) in early August. In fact, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial legislature) had been waiting for him to spell out his legislative agenda.
But the governor was often in Manila, a complaint that continues to this day.
Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said he goes to Manila for the hearings on the November 23 massacre “because I am the main complainant. I have to be in Manila).
He said he also goes to Manila to follow up on some concerns with the Department of Budget and that he spends two to three days for a trip to Manila or returns on the same day.
He said he can’t be expected to be in office all the time or up to midnight. “You can’t please everybody,” he said in Pilipino.
“Hindi ako si Superman” (I am not Superman), he added.
But Mangudadatu had another reason for rescheduling his SOPA. “I’ll do that after 100 days because there should be something to show for by then.”
As it turned out, Mangudadatu, a first-time governor, became the only governor in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to have delivered a hundred days after report.
When he delivered his SOPA on October 10, he had nine dump trucks lined up on the left side of the municipal grounds, filled with oil palm seedlings and a bit nearer the stage, the centerpiece of his administration’s first 100 days: the P15-million mobile hospital.
On August 20, the governor told MindaNews that they purchased P10 million worth of oil palm seedlings from Makilala in North Cotabato, for distribution in Maguindanao, to address the livelihood aspect that they promised their constituents.
He said oil palm was a viable crop in his province and would bring huge incomes for the farmers, citing his own family’s experience. The Mangudadatus own vast tracts of land planted to oil palm. “On my own, I have a seven year – old 370 hectare plantation that earns millions of pesos,” he said.
He said he earns P8,000 to P12,000 per hectare per harvest twice a month.
A resident with an e-mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org, who read about Mangudadatu’s claimed accomplishments said of the oil palm seedlings: “they just displayed that but they will plant that in their lands so only they will benefit.”
Asked to comment on the reader’s comment, Mangudadatu said, “Why should I do that? We have a plantation.”
In his SOPA, Mangudadatu said P10 million was spent on the purchase of 40,000 oil palm seedlings and 120,000 rubber tree seedling for distribution to the province’s 36 towns.
Whether or not the beneficiaries will be from the 36 towns or the five Mangudadatu-controlled towns only, or his own plantation, as critics expect would happen, no one can say for sure, for now.
The mechanisms for transparency and even for basic governance are only starting to be set up. For the Mangudadatu-Mastura team, it’s like starting from zero.
But Bobby Benito, executive director of the Bangsamoro Center for Justice and Peace (BCJP) said he is “hopeful the leadership of Toto Mangudadatu and Dustin Mastura will make a difference and bring Maguindanaons a participative and transparent governance.”
“In fact, Transparent Accountable and Participative Governance is no. 2 of his eight-point agenda where CSOs are strengthened through local special bodies,” Benito said, adding a performance billboard and Civil Society Organization (CSO) Desk are also being established.
“For the first time in Maguindanao, Budget Tracking by an NGO is now allowed, where local CSO partners will monitor budget preparation, budget authorization, budget review, budget execution and budget accountability,” Benito said, adding this is a project of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in partnership with Balay Mindanaw, The Asia Foundation and USAid.
The project is expected to start soon.
CBCS convenor Guiamel Alim cites as “improvements” of the Mangudadatu administration, the “NGO participation in the provincial special bodies, openness to consultations and the mobile hospital.”
In his SOPA, Mangudadatu said that in response to calls for transparency, the province has entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Patikai Developer, to set up the province’s official website. He did not, however, say when the website would be available.
“We will also update our Socio-Economic Profile. We will also issue a Provincial Publication/Newsletter so we can monitor the progress of our province. We will also set up Performance Billboards to let the people know about our programs.”
He said the province conducted a CSO Orientation and Workshop on September 24 to 25 at the Palm Pavilion in Barangay Calean, Tacurong City, to ensure partnerships in provincial programs and representation as well in governance.
Among those Mangudadatu set up through Executive Orders are bodies that he said were not activated during the time of the past administration, referring to the Ampatuans: the Provincial Development Council (EO 001); Provincial Peace and Order Council (EO2); EO 3 or the Maguindanao Task Force Reconciliation and Unification to deal with rido (family or clan feuds); Provincial Disaster (Response) Coordinating Council (EO 4); Local School Board (EO 6); Local Health Board (EO 7); Provincial Tax Code Committee (EO 8).
The Provincial Reconciliation and Unification Council was launched July 20 in Parang, Maguindanao to settle community conflicts and ridos.
A joint meeting of the Provincial Development Council and Provincial Peace and Order Council was held on August 5 at Genalin’s Forest Resort and Catering Services in Tacurong City.
On August 10, Mangudadatu reactivated the Provincial Disaster Response Coordinating Council through EO 4 at the BBGM Restaurant in Buluan.
On August 15, Mangudadatu met with the heads and staff of the different departments through a consultative meeting on August 15 also at the BBGM Restaurant.
On August 17 and 18, the province conducted a Local Governance Performance Management System at the Genalin Forest Garden Resort in Tacurong City.
Mangudadatu activated the Local School Board on September 7 at the BBGM Restaurant in Buluan. The board will serve as an advisory committee to the Sanggunian on education matters.
The next day, it was the turn of the Local Health Board at the same venue.
The Genalin Resort, named after his slain wife, and BBGM conference venues are, incidentally, owned by the Mangudadatu family.
In August, when Mangudadatu was asked about criticisms that the province had been holding conferences in their resort in Tacurong City, he told MindaNews, “wala naman pwedeng pag- meetingan dito (Buluan).” (There is no other meeting place here).
He said Tacurong City (in Sultan Kudarat province), is just near. “We can meet here but it will be too crowded. And if we meet here, we can’t really meet properly because look at how many hundreds of people come here,” he said in Pilipino.
But there is a conference venue in Buluan, BBGM Restaurant, MindaNews later learned from “Ulat sa Bayan,” a publication on the summary of his 100-day accomplishments.
BBGM is also owned by the Mangudadatus. “It’s my mother’s,” the governor told MindaNews by telephone on October 16.
RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees provides that public officials “shall not dispense or extend undue favors on account of their office to their relatives whether by consanguinity or affinity.”
Mangudadatu said BBGM restaurant is the only venue for meetings in Buluan. “Wala nang iba.” (There’s nothing else).
He said his mother’s restaurant has been there for long and if he can’t hold meetings in the restaurant or the resort because these are owned by the Mangudadatus, “where will we hold our meetings?”
“All we want to do is to serve the public,” the governor said.
(Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews for the Philippine Public Transparency Reporting Project. MindaNews is one of four partners that together comprise the PPTRP. This series is a joint PPTRP/MindaNews initiative)