Tension grips Maguindanao town as governor barges inside municipal hall

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 24 Nov) – Tension gripped the town of Pandag, Maguindanao del Sur on Thursday afternoon after a group led by Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu barged into the municipal hall, apparently to eject acting Mayor Zihan Mangudadatu from office.

Pandag Acting Mayor Zihan Mangudadatu (right) tries to get back her cellphone grabbed by Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu. Screengrab from a Facebook video post of Kuya King T. Mangudadatu

A viral video showed Sangki-Mangudadatu and her group entering the office of Zihan, the elected vice mayor who acted as mayor by rule of succession after her husband, Khadafeh Mangudadatu, was jailed in September due to double murder charges.

“We will file a case against you,” Sangki-Mangudadatu was heard telling Zihan in the video shortly after entering the latter’s office.

After grabbing Zihan’s phone, Sangki-Mangudadatu apparently wanted to hit her with it but a bodyguard stopped her.

“Wag mo galawin ang cellphone ko Ma’am,” Zihan protested.

A scuffle then ensued between the two camps.

MindaNews reached the information offices of the Bangsamoro Police Regional Office and the Maguindanao provincial police command but they said they had no details at the time the call was made.

Sangki-Mangudadatu was with former Maguindanao administrator Mohajeran “Odjie” Balayman, who was declared the winning mayor of Pandag by Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Judge Annabelle Piang last October 14. Balayman had contested the May 9 results where Khadafeh came out the winner in the town’s mayoral race.

Balayman took his oath of office before Sangki-Mangudadatu a few days after the court issued the ruling in his favor.

Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu (left) issues a warning against Acting Mayor Zihan Mangudadatu during the scuffle at the Pandag Municipal Hall. Screengrab from a Facebook video post of Kuya King T. Mangudadatu

But Bangsamoro Minister of the Interior and Local Government Naguib Sinarimbo has recognized Zihan, being the elected vice mayor, to assume the mayor’s post since her husband Khadafeh was in jail at the time the local court issued its ruling.

Balayman had filed cases of usurpation of authority, grave misconduct, usurpation of authority and graft against Sinarimbo for “not honoring” the court order.

Sinarimbo welcomed the charges, maintaining that the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government is following the rule of succession since Khadafeh’s camp appealed the court’s ruling.

In a Facebook live late Thursday afternoon, Khadafeh said the incident happened around 3:35 p.m. inside the municipal hall.

He claimed that aside from taking Zihan’s phone, Sangki-Mangudadatu’s bodyguards also allegedly took the two bags of her wife.

King Jhazzer Mangudadatu, a nephew of Khadafeh and former Maguindanao board member, alleged in a Facebook post that a gun was fired at Zihan but missed her. The supposed firing incident was not clear in the viral video.

Khadafeh appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the military and police to intervene in the tension to avoid bloodshed since some of the men in the group of Sangki-Mangudadatu were allegedly carrying firearms.

“Masyado ng mapagmalabis itong liderato ni Governor Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu sa Maguindanao,” claimed Khadafeh, who was recently freed after posting bail.

Khadafeh is the brother of former Maguindanao governor and representative Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who lost to Sangki-Mangudadatu during the elections last May 9.

Sangki-Mangudadatu is the wife of former Sultan Kudarat governor Suharto Mangudadatu, a cousin of Esmael and Khadafeh.

The fathers of Suharto (Datu Pax Mangudadatu, former governor of Sultan Kudarat) and brothers Esmael and Khadafeh (deceased Pua Mangudadatu, former mayor of Buluan) had a violent past.

Brothers Pax and Pua were known mortal enemies in the 1980s, with their bloody rivalry claiming the lives of a number of family members and supporters. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)