8 vie for ARMM Gov, 6 for Vice; deadline for filing of candidacy moved to May 25

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 May) – The Commission on Elections has extended the deadline for filing of certificates of candidacy for the August 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)  to May 25 midnight instead of May 23 but as of 3:30 p.m. Monday, eight persons, including Acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong,  have filed their certificates of candidacy for governor and six for vice governor, the ARMM director of the Comelec said.

Negative reactions greeted the news that former Tarlac Governor Margarita Cojuangco on Sunday filed a certificate of candidacy for ARMM vice governor but Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI, executive director of the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance said the combination of  former Sultan Kudarat governor Pax Mangudadatu  and Cojuangco is “good.”

“I believe it is a winning team and a good combination. It will set a good precedence for Muslim-Christian partnership for good governance,” he told MindaNews in a text message.

Mangudadatu and Cojuangco are running under the PDP (Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino)-Laban. Under RA 9054 governing the ARMM,  the regional governor and regional vice governor “shall be elected as a team.”

“A vote for a candidate for Regional Governor shall be counted as a vote for his team mate for Regional Vice Governor. A vote for a Regional Vice Governor shall be counted as a vote for his teammate for Regional Governor,” the law provides.

Ampatuans out, Mangudadatus in

Ray Sumalipao, the Comelec’s ARMM director, told MindaNews that as of 3:30 p.m., eight persons have filed their COCs for governor while six have filed COCs for vice governor.
The candidates for governor are: Ephraim Baldomero Defino;  former OIC ARMM Governor Alvarez Silal Isnaji; Elsie New Orejudos;  Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Macorao Balindong;  Kadra Asani Masihul; Pax Pakung Sandigan Mangudadatu;   Sahiron Dulah Salim; and Acting ARMM Governor Ansaruddin-Abdul Malik Alonto Adiong.

Defino ran but lost the gubernatorial race in Sultan Kudarat to Mangudadatu’s son, Suharto, in the May 2010 polls. Isnaji ran for ARMM governor in 2008, placing second with 17,973 votes against Zaldy Ampatuan’s 693,000 votes. Masihul ran for vice governor in 2008, receiving 23,688 votes against Adiong’s 668,175. Salim is a retired police general.

The candidates for vice governor are: Shariffa Ziola Anding Bago; former Lanao del Sur governor Basher Dimalaang Manalao; Margarita “Tingting” Delos Reyes Cojuangco;  Bobby Manangaran Datimbang who ran but lost his bid for governor of Lanao del Sur in 2007; Abdusakur II Abubakar Tan; and  Fatani Sultan Abdul Malik.
Tan is the son of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan. Incumbent ARMM Governor Adiong is the younger brother of Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong, Jr.

Mangudadatu, the first Moro governor of  Sultan Kudarat, a province with minority Moro population, served for three terms, from 1998 to 2007. He also served as representative of the first district of Sultan Kudarat from 2007 to 2010 but withdrew his reelection bid in 2010 as he was already eyeing the governorship of the ARMM  in the 2011 polls.

To recall, the Ampatuan patriarch, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., who was then in control of Maguindanao, fielded his son, Zaldy, then mayor of Shariff Aguak town, to run for ARMM governor in 2005. Zaldy won and was reelected in the 2008 elections but his three-year term was cut short when he was arrested and detained starting December 5, 2009, as one of the suspects in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media.
The victims were on their way to the Comelec provincial office in Shariff Aguak to file the COC of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, when stopped at the highway of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao by about a hundred armed men reportedly led by then Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Sr.. The victims were herded to the foothills of Daguma Range and there killed, a number of them hurriedly buried in mass graves.

The downfall of the Ampatuans, former allies of  the Mangudadatus, left a power vacuum in Maguindanao, paving the way for Vice Mayor Mangudadatu to win the gubernatorial race. It also left a power vacuum in the ARMM, paving the way for former Sultan Kudarat governor Pax Mangudadatu  to consider running for ARMM governor.


Not part of ARMM

Sultan Kudarat, a neighbor of Maguindanao, is not part of the ARMM. The ARMM comprises Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
Apparently to meet the qualifications for ARMM candidate, the elder Mangudadatu, who supported candidate Benigno Aquino for president, transferred his voter’s registration to Buluan, Maguindanao,  his hometown before he settled in neighboring Lutayan town in Sultan Kudarat province, where he served as mayor before becoming provincial governor.

Under RA 9054, candidates for governor must be “a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter of the autonomous region, able to read and write, at least 35 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the autonomous region for, at least one year immediately preceding the election.”
The elder Mangudadatu confirmed in January this year his intent to run for ARMM governor to help bring “real development” to the poverty-stricken region.

“They’ve (ARMM residents) suffered long enough. It’s time for the region to experience the progress and development it deserves, given its vast resources that remain largely untapped,” he said .

Tingting in ARMM

Cojuango was former governor of Tarlac, a province in Luzon.

Shortly after the ouster of the Marcoses in 1986, Cojuangco had a house constructed near the airport in Awang, in what is now part of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao.

Sumalipao confirmed Cojuangco filed for transfer of her voter’s registration to Datu Odin Sinsuat in March.

“Tingting in ARMM? Why not a Chavit or Ecleo to run as well? This bastardized political exercise only strengthens the argument that the ARMM is not the solution  to the Moro people’s quest and struggle for self-determination,” said Carlos Isagani Zarate, secretary-general of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao.

Samira Ali Gutoc, one of the convenors of the Reform ARMM Now (RAN), a group supporting postponement of the elections to May 2013 and the appointment of OICs, said the filing of candidacy of Mangudadatu and Cojuangco “is tainted with blood.”

“We are saddened by the wounding of some five people that welcomed the convoy of Mangudadatu in Shariff Aguak yesterday. While we wish them luck, RAN continues to push for postponement because this violence will not be the last,” she said.

Six supporters of Mangudadatu who were returning home to Ampatuan town in Maguindanao late Sunday afternoon after Mangudadatu filed his COC in Cotabato City were injured in an ambush along the highway in  Barangay Iginagampong, Datu Unsay town but Mangudadatu, through Teng Garcia, his media bureau chief, told MindaNews in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat on Monday that the incident was not election-related but likely an attempted hold-up.

Commenting on Cojuangco’s candidacy, Baibonn Sanguid of the Young Moro Professionals Network asked, “this woman is now a resident of ARMM? I thought socialites are all lurking at Forbes Park?”

For Prof. Rudy Rodil, historian and former government peace panel member in the negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front. “Mangudadatu’s candidacy is perfect. Cojuangco’s is a total mystery to me,”

Guiamel Alim, executive director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc. and a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, said “Mangudadatu should give way to other clans. This is dynasty. And Tingting can better run for barangay chair in Luzon.”

Earlier, on May 20, Comelec authorized the opening of two satellite offices for the filing of COCs , at the provincial capitol compound in Marawi City and at the 2nd floor of the Neighbor’s Center Bldg. in Moret, Zamboanga City. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the satellite offices were set up so that candidates don’t have to go all the way to the ARMM regional office in Cotabato just to file their COCs. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews with a report from Ferdinandh Cabrera)