COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/22 May) — Former Sultan Kudarat governor and representative Pax Mangudadatu and former Tarlac governor Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, aunt of President Benigno Simeon Aquino, today filed their certificates of candidacy for governor and vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under the banner of the PDP-Laban.
Six other candidates for governor and another candidate for vice governor had filed their certificates of candidacy governor between May 19 and 22. The last day for filing is tomorrow, Monday, May 23, when acting ARMM Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong is expected to file his certificate. Adiong was elected vice governor along with Zaldy Uy Ampatuan who is presently detained as one of the suspects in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media.
Under Republic Act 9054, the law governing the ARMM, 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.”
Sultan Kudarat province, a neighbor of Maguindanao, and Tarlac in Luzon are not part of the ARMM. The region comprises Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
Shortly after the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and the assumption of the Presidency by Corazon Aquino, the sister of her husband Jose or Peping, Cojuangco built a house near the airport in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao (more popularly referred to as Cotabato City airport).
It is not certain, however, if she is a registered voter of the ARMM but a member of her staff said Cojuangco filed a transfer of her voter’s registration to Maguindanao on March 31, the last day for filing.
Mangudadatu, on the other hand, had served Sultan Kudarat province as governor and representative. Mangudadatu is said to have registered as voter in Buluan, Maguindanao, where his nephew, Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu holds office as governor of Maguindanao.
Under RA 9054, 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.
Running against Mangudadatu so far are former OIC ARMM Governor Alvarez Isnaji, incumbent Lanao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Pangalian Balindong, the provincial chair of the Liberal Party; Ephraim Defino, Elsie Orejudoss, Kadra Masihol and Sahiron Salim.
Running against Cojuangco are Shariffa Bago and Dimalang Manalao.
Mangudadatu filed his certificate of candidacy at the regional Commission on Elections office along Mabini St. at around 10 a.m., causing heavy traffic as he was accompanied by a convoy of supporters.
Wearing an orange Lacoste shirt and black kupia on his head, Mangudadatu, who was with his allies running for assemblymen, showed his certificate of candidacy (COC) and said his campaign slogan is “Paxbabago beyond Peace.”
Mangudadatu said he is hopeful the August 8 elections will push through, despite moves to have it postponed to synchronize with the May 13, 2013 elections.
“We filed our COC because that is a requirement. Whether it pushes through or not, we have no control of that,” he said.
Cojuangco, who flew in from Manila on commercial plane at noon and proceeded to a press conference at the Estosan Garden Hotel, filed her COC at around 3 p.m. in a white dress and shoes the color of gold, accompanied by her husband, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, brother of the late President, Corazon Aquno and uncle of the incumbent president Benigno Simeon Aquino
She shook hands with people outside the Comelec and gave away yellow shirts similar to the shirt icons of his nephew-in-law Benigno Simeon Aquino while he was campaigning for President.
Before handing her COC to ARMM Comelec supervisor Ray Sumalipao, an Islamic prayer was offered. After it was handed over, a Christian prayer was offered.
Cojuangco said she chose 3 p.m. as the time for filing as it is a holy hour that would help her in her mission.
She told reporters she does not expect support from the President although she informed him of her move.
“I texted Noynoy (President Aquino’s nickname), I told him I’m interested to run as vice governor in Muslim Mindanao under Pax Mangudadatu. … so I informed him that I will be the tandem of Datu Pax Mangudadatu as the best candidate that you can bank on yourself and he said to me, ‘let’s wait for the Senate,’ but with due respect to the Senate, you know, I don’t know the maneuvering by the Liberal Party in the Senate, I don’t know they are causing this delay, while they are delaying until this time they don’t have a candidate, that is why I told them, join me, join Pax and we will have one unity ticket.”
Cojuangco said she will focus on health, economic development and education if elected.
She said she opposes the postponement of the August 8 polls. (Ferdinandh Cabrera with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)