By Ali G. Macabalang
Cotabato City — In probably the first instance since the infamous Maguindanao massacre eight years ago, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu and a co-accused in the murder of his wife in the November 29, 2009 carnage, former acting governor Sajid Ampatuan, posed for photos and shook hands at a special meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of Maguindanao last Monday.
“My administration promotes unity and productive peace… Our quest for justice (in the massacre) is up to the court to decide… Meantime, we must move on to bring Maguindanao to greater heights,” Mangudadatu said when asked to comment about his cordiality towards Ampatuan, who is one of 197 persons accused for complicity in the death of 58 persons.
Among the victims in the massacre, which was carried out in Ampatuan town, was Mangudadatu’s wife Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, his two sisters and a cousin.
Sajid Ampatuan’s petition for bail was granted by the Court of Appeals in September 2017.
He was with his wife, Datu Unsay town mayor Reshal, when he and Mangudadatu met at the PPOC meeting.
The Sixth Infantry Division, led by Maj. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, hosted the special meeting that was attended by 32 of the province’s 36 mayors, while the four others who couldn’t make it send their representatives.
Mangudadatu and Ampatuan were goaded into posing for photos and shaking hands by council officials and members, as well as representatives of the civilian, police and military sectors.
In the special meeting, Sr. Supt. Agustin Tello of the provincial police office and Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) director Amina Dalandag recommended cohesive interventions in the settlement of armed squabbles in the towns of Datu Saudi and Datu Abdullah Sangki that have displaced hundreds of resident-families and left some casualties.
The meeting adopted recommendations and resolutions, asking the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to constantly police its field commanders and followers reportedly involved in the armed skirmishes in both towns, while prodding concerned local government executives to intensify pacification efforts.
Two families allied with leaders of MILF base commands renewed armed fighting on February 22 in Barangay Madia in Datu Saudi town a day after two gunmen shot dead Sahabudin Namli, a 42-year-old elected councilor. Over 200 families have since fled homes.