By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Administration and opposition candidates for local and national posts in the 2019 midterm elections are batting for the same cause: continuity of reforms in Maguindanao, the vote-richest province in Muslim Mindanao region once gripped by fierce feudal politics.
Senatorial aspirants from parties allied with the administration, the opposition, and even independent blocs are batting for “cohesive efforts” that would prevent a repeat of the infamous 2009 “Maguindanao massacre,” and sustain remarkable reforms collectively putting the province in the national map of development.
The “Mabagokoto” slate of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (DPP-Laban) and the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) have the staunchest advocacy regarding Maguindanao: “Never shall we allow feudal politics to take its toll again in the province in the fashion of the 2009 massacre.”
A total of 58 people, 32 of them media workers, were killed in the Nov. 23, 2009 tragedy, which published reports tagged as the world’s bloodiest election-related and deadliest single attack on journalists. Leading the fatalities was Ginalyn, sister-in-law of Maguindanao Congressman and senatorial aspirant Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu, who was to file the gubernatorial candidacy of her husband, then Buluan Vice-Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu in the 2010 polls.
Rep. Mangudadatu and fellow candidates in the “Mabagokoto” slate – Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Christopher “Bong” Go, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, and Francis “Tol” Tolentino – have vowed to push for legislation providing stringent penalties for brutalities in politics and against journalists.
In separate occasions, President Rodrigo Duterte has lauded the Mangudadatus for avoiding vengeance and leaving to authorities their clamor for justice in the carnage. The President was once reported as ordering state prosecutors to secure court conviction of suspects in the massacre.
Officials of the Commission on Elections as well as police and military establishments have separately acknowledged the “emergence” of reforms in Maguindanao, citing the province’s receipt of three Seal of Good Local Government (SGLG) awards in the past eight years.
“I may not surpass the achievements of my elder brother in nine years, but I promise to God and voters that I will continue all the policies and programs he started,” said Mangudadatu town Mayor Freddie “Ogie” Mangudadatu, who picked incumbent Vice Governor Lester Sinsuat as his running-mate.