Ampatuans, Mangudadatus fuse ranks as election draws near PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 03 May 2013 10:18

It was a scene residents of Shariff Aguak town never thought off, owing to the deep-rooted stigma of the November 23, 2010 “Maguindanao Massacre.”

Jeepney driver Alex Musin, 30, said in Filipino it could be “heaven’s way” of showing that time heals old wounds and that animosities will eventually wither off as a consequence of continuing interface of Moro communities regardless of their political identities and clan statures.

Members of the Mangudadatu clan on Tuesday visited Shariff Aguak “en masse” for the first time after the massacre. Shariff Aguak is the hometown of the Ampatuans whose leaders are now detained for allegedly masterminding the country’s worst election-related violence ever.

One of the 58 fatalities in the massacre, the country’s worst election-related violence ever, was the wife of now re-electionist Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who also lost a sister and several relatives in the mass murder.

The Mangudadatus, led by the governor and accompanied by other local Liberal Party candidates, held in Shariff Aguak town Tuesday a campaign sortie, participated by thousands of local residents.

Shariff Aguak is a stronghold of the Ampatuan clan, which once ruled the province with very little opposition.

Mangudadatu, who is seeking a second term as LP’s official candidate for Maguindanao governor, told reporters he was amazed with how dozens of senior representatives of the Ampatuan clan received him and his entourage with “amity and fraternalism,” something he did not expect.

Several innocent Ampatuans are aspiring for various elective municipal and provincial positions under the banner of LP, among them Datu Sarip, half-brother of the now-detained former governor of the province, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.

Datu Sarip, who has no criminal records, is contesting the bid for a second term of Shariff Aguak’s incumbent mayor, Zahara Upam Ampatuan, wife of Datu Anwar.

Datu Anwar is son of Andal, Sr. His re-electionist spouse, who was elected mayor of Shariff Aguak during the May 13, 2010 elections, is identified with the United Nationalist Alliance.

Mangudadatu said he is convinced that the LP’s candidate for mayor of Shariff Aguak will defeat the town’s incumbent mayor during the May 13, 2013 elections.

Another Ampatuan, Datu Yasser, LP’s candidate for the 24-seat Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said hundreds of his relatives showed up and participated in Tuesday’s rally to show that they do not harbor any animosity against Mangudadatu.

“The rally was historic and heartwarming because thousands of Shariff Aguak residents showed up to listen to our re-electionist governor speak about his plans on how to continue serving the people of Maguindanao if re-elected,” Datu Yasser told reporters.

A cleric, who asked to be named only as Ustadz Badrudin, said the coming over to Shariff Aguak by the Mangudadatus, among them Datu Zajid, a candidate for the lone congressional seat in the second district of Maguindanao, and Datu Khadafy, a re-electionist ARMM assemblyman, could be a start of a “normalization process” between the Ampatuans and the Mangudadatu clan.

Mangudadatu has persistently been asserting that he has not been persecuting the “innocent Ampatuans” and that he is leaving everything to the judiciary.

President Benigno Aquino III, while in Maguindanao’s Buluan town last April 13, said voters in the province ought to re-elect Mangudadatu for not having resorted to “vendetta” attacks against the Ampatuans despite the misery he suffered from the massacre.

The President said instead of retaliating, the governor focused on implementing various peace and development projects in Maguindanao.