Maguindanao inaugurates legislative hall; Sultan Kudarat is back as provincial seat

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 June) – The provincial legislature of Maguindanao moved to its “permanent” home on Thursday, June 14 with the inauguration of a rehabilitated structure at the old Capitol compound in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat town, as its new legislative hall.

The transfer to the new office of the Sanggunang Panlalawigan (SP) from the temporary office at the ABC (Association of Barangay Captains) building in the Sultan Kudarat municipal compound was based on Resolution 078 passed on May 3, 2011, establishing Simuay as the official site of the SP, and Resolution 132 on April 3, 2012, reiterating Sultan Kudarat as the official seat Maguindanao.

MAGUINDANAO'S LEGISLATIVE HALL. This newly-rehabilitated building, the former office of General Services behind the old Capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, is now the official home of the Sangguniang Panlalawaigan (Provincial Board). The building, located behind the old provincial capitol, was inaugurated Thursday, June 14.MindaNews photo taken June 7 by Carolyn O. Arguillas

But only the SP is moving to the old capitol site along the Davao-Cotabato national highway in Simuay,  120 or 140 kilometers from Buluan, depending on where one passes.

Governor Esmael Mangudadatu continues to hold office in a supposed training center converted into a “satellite office of the Provincial Governor” in his hometown in Buluan, while awaiting inauguration of what is reported to be his “new capitol” along the highway also in Buluan but which the governor calls a “Peace Center.”

Mangudadatu’s name was not listed in the inauguration program attached to the invitations sent out by the Office of the Vice Governor, Ismael Mastura. The governor and his former running mate, had long parted ways and were last seen in a public gathering on their 100th day in office on October 10, 2010, in Mangudadatu’s hometown in Buluan.

When their administration took over from the Ampatuans’ on June 30, 2010, both vowed not to hold office in the then provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak, hometown of  Andal Ampatuan Sr., governor of Maguindanao from 2001 to 2009.

Citing security concerns, he and Mastura said they would hold office temporarily in their respective hometowns, pending the rehabilitation of the old Capitol in Simuay – Mangudatu in a building supposedly intended for a training center, fronting the municipal hall compound in Buluan, and Mastura in the ABC (Assocition of Barangay Captains) building in his hometown in Sultan Kudarat town.

The rehabilitation cost of the old Capitol was estimated at P50 million.

Maguindanao was carved out of the Cotabato Empire through Presidential Decree 341 on November 22, 1973. The PD designated Maganoy (divided into several towns now but referred to as Shariff Aguak) as the capital of the new province.

PD 341 was amended by PD 1170 on July 11, 1977, which transferred the provincial seat to Sultan Kudarat town. Then President Ferdinand Marcos issued the transfer order saying Sultan Kudarat town “has more facilities to offer, being near the Polloc Port and situated at the crossroads of national highways leading to Davao City, the two Lanaos and South Cotabato.

When Andal Ampatuan Sr., won the gubernatorial post in 2001, he moved the provincial offices to his hometown in Shariff Aguak town, citing security concerns.

Soon after, a new provincial capitol was constructed  and was occupied before the May 2007 polls but it was inaugurated only in March 2009, in the presence of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The capitol construction cost P218 million, P50 million of that from then Arroyo’s Social Fund.

Resolution 132 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan was passed on April 3, 2012, “reiterating Sultan Kudarat as the seat of government” of Maguindanao.

The resolution said Ampatuan transferred the provincial offices  “without any amendatory law to PD No. 1170, nor supporting Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution for the transfer of provincial seat and offices. “

Earlier,  the SP  passed Resolution 078 on May 3, 2011, establishing Simuay as the “official site of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Maguindano.”

Mangudadatu has repeatedly denied the new building along the highway in Buluan is the “new capitol.

In his “Grand Kanduli” for his year-long administration on July 29, 2011, Mangudadatu announced that the “Peace Center Building,” costing some P30 million, will serve as a “center for advocacy and research for peace and success.”

NEW CAPITOL? Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu denies this almost-finished building along the national highway in his hometown in Buluan, Maguindanao, is the new provincial capitol. The governor, who holds office in a training center fronting the town hall of Buluan and dubbed "satellite office of the Provincial Governor," says the new building is a “Peace Center" that will house 16 offices, including his. MindaNews photo taken June 8 by Carolyn O. Arguillas

In an interview in August 2011, Mangudadatu referred to the building as “Rajah Buayan-Silongan Peace Center” although the construction’s billboard described it as the “Rajah Buayan Peace Training Center.”

He told MindaNews the building would house 16 offices, including his. He said he would not leave the “satellite office” but would report to the Peace Center “at least once a week.”

He denied it was intended to be the “new capitol.”

“Nagpromise ako sa  tao na ire-rehab ko yung capitolyo doon sa Sultan Kudarat,” (I promised the people I would have the capitol in Sultan Kudarat rehabilitated), he said.

Only the former General Services Office has been rehabilitated into what is now the Sangguniang Panlalawigan building. Mastura said they appropriated P2 million for the rehabilitation.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)