BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/10 October) – Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu is tired of the “negatibong imahe” (negative image) of Maguindanao.
The country’s third poorest province, he said in his State of the Province Adress (SOPA) Sunday morning to mark his 100th day in office, is known as a conflict-affected area, not only because of the skirmishes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but also because of the rido (family or clan feuds).
These conflicts, he said, have made Maguindanao the province with the most number of internally displaced persons (IDPs or “bakwits”) in Asia.
On top of this, the gruesome massacre of November 23, 2009 – where at least 58 persons were killed, including his wife Genalyn, youngest and eldest sister, other relatives and 32 media workers — happened also in Maguindanao.
“Sa kasamaang palad, sa tuwing nababanggit po ang Maguindanao, ang nasabing massacre ang agad na pumapasok sa isipan ng mga tao” (Unfortunately, each time Maguindanao is mentioned, people immediately think of that massacre), Mangudadatu said.
“Nais po nating baguhin ang negatibong imahe na ito ng Maguindanao. Kailanganin po natin ng panahon upang bumangon mula dito. Wala pong imposible kung tayo ay magtutulungan, kapitbisig isulong ang kapayapaan tungo sa malusog na Maguindanao” (We want to change this negative image of Maguindanao. We need time to rise from this. There is nothing impossible if we help each other. Together, let’s work for peace towards a vibrant Maguindanao), he said.
Mangudadatu said to address the IDP situation, he issued Executive Order 002 convening the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) to maintain peace in the province. He also issued EO 003 convening the Maguindanao Task Force Reconciliation and Unification to deal with the rido problem.
He reiterated his administration’s “all-out support” to the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
He said the province also participated in the Provincial Peace Summits and the Regional Peace Summit.
Mangudadatu said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed a resolution condemning the November 23 massacre and the rape of a 21-year old volunteer nurse in the province.
“Florence,” not her real name, a volunteer nurse assigned to South Upi, Maguindanao, was gang-raped and left for dead on September 25. She is presently recuperating at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (formerly Davao Medical Center).
Justice has been slow for the victims of the massacre and the gang-rape.
It has been almost a year since the Ampatuan Massacre but only Andal Ampatuan, Jr., then mayor of Datu Unsay town, has been arraigned, among the Ampatuan clan. His father, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., the three-term governor, and his brothers Zaldy, then governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Anwar, then mayor of Shariff Aguak town; Sajid, elected vice governor in 2007 and appointed acting governor from January 2009 until Andal Ampatuan Sr. again reassumed the post of governor around November; and brother in law Ahmad “Tato” Ampatuan, have not been arraigned.
Maguindanao was placed under a state of emergency a day after the massacre. Martial law was imposed briefly in December and the state of emergency has remained as of October 10.
In the gang-rape of Florence, at least six suspects have been detained and one former militiaman admitted responsibility but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday night in Davao City that she is inclined to believe the six are innocent and that the former militiaman’s testimony is questionable. De Lima said the real culprits may still be at large.
Mangudadatu did not say specifically how he intends to change the negative image of Maguindanao.
He immediately proceeded to the topic of economy and how he intends to solve the 62% poverty incidence in the country’s third poorest province.
To increase agricultural productivity, the provincial government purchased some P10 million worth of rubber and oil palm seedlings for distribution and distributed 51 carabaos to farmers in Ampatuan, Rajah Buayan, Datu Paglas, Buluan and Mangudadatu.
He spoke about farm to market roads and fish landing projects before proceeding to the topic on tourism.
He said the province has so many tourism potentials that have not been given priority by the previous administration despite their importance to the economy, such as Buluan Lake and Ligawasan Marsh, hot springs, caves, falls, Blue Lagoon.
Curiously, Mangudadatu’s next line, was “Bilang panimula isasagawa na po natin ang paggawa ng concrete access road galing sa national highway patungo sa Maguindanao Massacre site sa Sitio Masalay, Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao” (For starters, we will construct a concrete access road from the national highway to the Maguindanao Massacre site).
The massacre site is located some 3.5 kilometers uphill from the national highway where the victims were flagged down by some 100 armed men reportedly led by Andal Ampatuan, Jr., on their way to the next town, Shariff Aguak, to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)