CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/24 June) – Hadji Abdullah “Lacs” Dalidig, one of the whistleblowers in electoral fraud in Lanao del Sur, including the 2004 Presidential elections that gave Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a six-year term, passed away Saturday morning due to heart failure.
The 63-year old Dalidig, who headed groups like the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) in Lanao del Sur, the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reforms and Good Governance (IMERGG) and the Muslim Multisectoral Movement for Peace and Development, suffered from a lingering ailment but remained steadfast in his fight against electoral fraud in the province.
Dalidig succumbed to heart failure at the Camp Amai Pakpak Hospital Center in Marawi.
Leah Tarhata Mehila of the Reform ARMM Now movement to which Dalidig also belonged, said Dalidig had been suffering bouts of asthma and other complications after his kidney transplant more than two years ago.
In July last year, Dalidig said they were preparing to file criminal charges against Virgilio Garcillano, the former Elections Commissioner and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo .
“Papanagutin natin si Garci and eventually GMA for election crimes” (Let us make Garci and eventually GMA answer for their election crimes), Dalidig said on July 23 last year.
It was IMERGG, in partnership with the Namfrel, that exposed alleged massive cheating and vote buying in Lanao del Sur in favor of candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 presidential elections.
Dalidig’s expose was bolstered when a wiretapped phone conversation, later known as the “Hello Garci” tapes, surfaced in 2005. Among the wiretapped conversations between then President Arroyo and Garcillano was the vote rigging in Lanao del Sur to ensure Arroyo’s victory over popular actor Fernando Poe Jr.
OIC Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc remembers Dalidig for his “incisive and steadfast struggle against electoral fraud. He exposed how former President Arroyo cheated the late Fernando Poe Jr., of the presidency. Lacs never cowed in the face of threats from the Arroyos men. He spoke the truth.” (See Gutoc’s tribute to Dalidig)
Gutoc said that despite Dalidig’s ailment and a hospitalization of almost half a year, he “managed to go to rallies, speak in the Senate rally grounds on the ARMM Synchronization Law early last year, conversed with Senators even if he was losing breath, walked with the youth activists in lobbying per Senator at the Senate in lobbying a vote for the ARMM election postponement. On his last day, he was able to pray Tahajjud, read the Qur’an, following his main slogan “from haram to halal,” (from fraud to clean and honest elections). “
Journalist Richel Umel of the Philippine Daily Inquirer said Dalidig was looking very “sick” when they last saw each other during a press conference in Iligan City on May 9.
“I told him to take it easy because I was worried about his health but Lacs talked to me about his favorite topic: electoral reforms in Lanao del Sur,” Umel said.
Dalidig died 16 days before the start of the new registration of voters in the five-province, two-city Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), following the nullification of the previous voters’ list in the region.
Vote-buying, Dalidig had repeatedly said, is the reason why Lanao del Sur is underdeveloped.
“Because they pay huge amounts to buy votes, local politicians will take advantage of their town’s Internal Revenue Allotment” when they win, he warned in May 2004.
Dalidig was at the forefront in the crusade for clean elections and good governance in Lanao del Sur for decades.
In 1992, he and others of like mind, set up the IMERGG which was credited for allowing Mahid Mutilan, then a relatively unknown religious leader, to win against the late Ali Dimaporo and former Lanao del Sur Governor Saidamen Pangarungan.
But their victory against vote-buying was short-lived, he said, adding, “Because of poverty, the people accept money in exchange for their votes.”
Dalidig was not just against electoral fraud, he was also against war.
He led rallies in Marawi City denouncing former President Estrada for waging an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000.
In February last year, Dalidig urged President Aquino and Congress not to forget that the face of alleged corruption in the military is the conflict in Mindanao.
“Muslims and Christians alike are dying here in Mindanao because of the greed of powerful persons and a gang in the military,” he said.
Dalidig challenged the Aquino administration to “resist doing a Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who fomented escalation of conflict in Mindanao in order to justify big spending in the military and in order to raise billions of pesos worth of projects in the name of peace and development for Mindanao.”
He said the Pesident should immediately work for the settlement of the conflict because any delay may again result in the re-escalation of armed conflict between “the Bangsamoro and the Government.”
Dalidig also led fellow Maranaos in staging a noise barrage at the gates of Kampo Ranao, a military camp, to protest the arrival of US troops in Lanao del Sur in 2008. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews with reports)