BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 27 Apr) – Call it awkward moment in the middle of the Liberal Party’s “show of force” gathering here Tuesday when the last speaker at the podium openly endorsed Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, of the rival PDP-Laban, and then led the raising of the hands of LP’s local candidates.
Former Buluan Mayor Ibrahim “Jong” Mangudadatu, younger brother of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, clenched his fist while the rest did the LP’s signature “L” hand gesture popularized by the late President Corazon Aquino.
While the staunch Duterte supporter shocked the pro-LP crowd, his gesture ended in laughter and cheers as he openly talked about Duterte in the middle of the LP event.
Mangudadatu said that while he is backing Duterte in the presidential race, he is endorsing the reelection of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and Vice Gov. Abdulrashid Lucman.
“I am now throwing my support behind Hataman and Lucman and their Liberal Party mates because I am convinced they are sincere in pushing the interest of the Bangsamoro,” he said.
Datu Jong admitted in his speech that he attempted to run as ARMM governor but this was blocked by his brothers. For his love and respect for them, he heeded the advice of his siblings who are all allied with the Liberal Party.
Aside from the Maguindanao governor, his other brothers in politics include Zajid, who is representative in the second district; Toy, an assemblyman in the ARMM; and Freddie, who is mayor of the municipality named after the family. At least a dozen relatives in different positions are also with the Liberal party.
Why is he supporting Duterte?
“How can a Bangsamoro not support a Bangsamoro candidate that Mindanaons should be proud of in this new era of Philippine politics?” Jong said, referring to Duterte as a Bangsamoro, whom he regards as a second father.
The event was attended by around 500 people, which include mayors, barangay captains, former rebel commanders, lawmakers, prominent political clans and former politicians from al lover ARMM who are supporting the reelection of Hataman and Lucman.
Hataman said in a press briefing that the swarm and warm support of the people elated him because they witnessed the overhaul of the region, which he said was almost previously almost hopeless, courtesy of the “Daang Matuwid” initiatives of his party.
Like many others in attendance, he just smiled with Datu Jong’s move to endorse Duterte in the LP event.
In fact they were seek quipping on stage and back stage about there preferred presidential bets.
The Mangudadatu clan hosted the Maguindanao show of support for Hataman.
“Mahirap lang maniguro pero almost tapos na ang boxing” (We just can’t be so sure but the boxing is almost over), Hataman said, expressing confidence.
Hataman is facing a fellow Liberal Party member, incumbent Vice Governor Sakur Tan, a known political kingpin in Sulu province whom Hataman described earlier in his rally as a “political warlord.”
12-0, No way
Despite getting around 90 percent of incumbent local leaders in the Liberal party, Hataman said they surely cannot get the voters to go LP all the way, electing Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo for president and vice president, as well as the party’s senatorial lineup.
“We will give freedom to our kababayan’s to choose their leaders, no way to 12-0 but what we can assure to the party is to convince sincerely the voters and widen our campaign to continue the Daang Matuwid in favor of Mar and Leni tandem”, Hataman assured.
He was apparently referring to the controversial 12-0 sweep of the administration’s senatorial candidates in the 2007 midterm elections during former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s time, when the Ampatuans lorded it over Maguindanao.
ARMM has 1.6 million voters.
Security, peace and order a priority platform
After the development infrastructure initiatives and reform in governance he claimed he did in the past administration, Hataman said his platform now will give more focus to peace and security. This he said as a response to the recent beheading of Canadian kidnap victim John Ridsdel with the rising radical terrorist groups hiding in Sulu and nearby island provinces.
These groups, he said, hounds and pulls back the ARMM despite the efforts to uplift its image.
“We don’t want to be tagged as Somalia of the South someday. We will do our very best to stop this vicious cycle with the help of the people,” Hataman said, adding they are giving all out support to the ongoing operation against the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Hataman blamed poverty and lack of education as the reasons why the Abu Sayyaf has lured many local folks in its ranks.
The problem of kidnapping in the South has affected the economy of the island dwellers after the Malaysian government closed its borders, halting the centuries-old barter trade between the two countries.
Hataman expressed concern on the rising prices of commodities, prompting him to immediately write Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Agriculture to intervene to ease the burden of the local folks.
“We understand they are used to the old trading practice in the sea buying goods at lower prices. But with this blockade, we need to assure there is food available and that the traders will not take advantage of the situation,” Hataman stressed.