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Mangudadatus vow no retaliation

Andal Ampatuan Jr. holds his detainee number in his cell at the NBI. Inset shows Esmael Mangudadatu holding his COC for governor, which he filed yesterday.  JONJON VICENCIO/AP

MANILA, Philippines - The Mangudadatus have given assurance that they will not carry out a rido (vendetta) against members of the Ampatuan clan who were implicated in the massacre of 57 peole, including several members of the Mangudadatu family on Nov. 23.

Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu said yesterday they only want the suspects in the massacre of their relatives prosecuted.

“We will not retaliate with force. We shall only fight them the legal way, through the court, through a legal battle, as prescribed by law,” he said.

Mangudadatu, who is going to run for governor of Maguindanao, lost his wife Genalyn and two sisters in the massacre.

The Mangudadatus own vast tracts of land in their hometown Buluan, and also wield political power over the newly created Pandag and Mangudadatu towns.

They are related to the equally influential Paglas, Mangelen and Pendatun clans in the area.

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Mangudadatu said Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his father, Maguindanao Gov. Andal Sr., are strongly opposed to his desire to contest the gubernatorial seat of the province, which has 36 towns.

Mangudadatu nearly lost control when he saw prime suspect Ampatuan Jr. during the inquest at General Santos City last Thursday and attempted to punch the mayor, but was held back by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation and his younger brother Freddie, mayor of Mangudadatu town.

“I want to smash his face, beat him to a pulp, but cooler heads prevailed and it was then I realized I am a Muslim and that as a Muslim I need to face this ordeal with utmost patience, humility, perseverance and sobriety. Muslims are sober, not hot-headed,” Mangudadatu, who assumed leadership of their clan after the demise of his father Datu Pua in 2002, said.

He said he and members of his family will not persecute members of the Ampatuan clan not implicated in the massacre.

Mangudadatu said they will show to their constituents that ethnic Maguindanaons can still rise from the culture of clan wars and vendetta killings.

A member of the family, Energy assistant secretary Hadji Zamzamin Ampatuan, said many of their relatives are now apprehensive over the safety of their children studying in the cities of Koronadal, Davao and General Santos.

The DOE official said he has advised his relatives not to let their children drop out from school since the Mangudadatus have assured them that they would not retaliate.

Mangudadatu files COC

Five days after 16 of his immediate family members and 41 others were brutally killed on alleged orders of his political opponent, Mangudadatu personally filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for governor of Maguindanao.

Former defense chief and Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro accompanied the Buluan vice mayor to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office at Shariff Aguak at 11:30 a.m.

Teodoro fetched Mangudadatu at his residence in Buluan and traveled to Shariff Aguak, passing in front of the Ampatuan mansion.

“Only death can stop me from running,” Mangudadatu, escorted by soldiers, a police commander and a senior army general, said.

His caravan of more than 50 vehicles took the same road where his wife, two sisters, supporters and journalists were stopped and killed Monday.

Along the highway, groups of people waved at the cars and raised their thumbs and clenched their fists in approval.

But inside Shariff Aguak, the stronghold of the rival Ampatuan clan, the mood was somber. There were no enthusiastic crowds and only few pedestrians.

“This symbolizes our freedom. I hope this will be the start of our liberation,” said Mangudadatu, wearing a red-striped t-shirt and jeans. Minutes later, he proudly raised his COC in front of reporters and followers.

Scores of supporters and political colleagues in Central Mindanao, led by South Cotabato Rep. Arthur Pingol, also disregarded threats to their lives to show support for and express their sympathy to Mangudadatu.

Sarangani Gov. Rene Miguel Dominguez, also a Lakas stalwart, said Teodoro’s act of personally escorting Mangudadatu showed the latter’s commitment to peaceful and honest elections in Maguindanao.

Teodoro also personally attested to the vice mayor’s filing of his COC.

“This is not about party lines or affiliations anymore. Secretary Teodoro has expressed his commitment to Vice Mayor Mangudadatu that he would extend all possible help or assistance to ensure that justice would be served,” Dominguez said.

He said that at the moment, Mangudadatu has remained a member of the ruling party in good standing and has made no gesture of defecting to another political party.

“I cannot asked him (Mangudadatu) if he plans to shift parties as he is still in that period of grieving. But regardless of whether he will transfer to the Liberal Party or to any other political group, we at Lakas are committed in helping him and his family, and those of his slain supporters, get justice,” Dominguez stressed.

Mangudadatu urged to push through

Meanwhile, the wife of one of the slain journalists killed in the massacre called on Mangudadatu to continue the gubernatorial fight against any member of the powerful Ampatuan clan.

“He should not be afraid now because he has the support of all the people,” Noemi Parcon, wife of Joel Parcon, former dzRH reporter and publisher of Frontiera weekly newspaper, said.

Parcon was among the journalists killed on Monday. 

Mrs. Parcon viewed the Maguindanao massacre as “God’s way” to end the Ampatuans’ reign in Maguindanao.

“The sad part, however, is that a lot of people have sacrificed their lives and one of them is my husband,” she said.

Mrs. Parcon expressed hope that Mangudadatu would be a “good governor” once he wins in 2010.

Another journalist who was brutally killed was reportedly encouraged by some politicians to run for city councilor or board member in South Cotabato’s second district in the upcoming 2010 elections.

“Some politicians were encouraging me to run for city councilor in this city. Others convinced me to run for board member of the province,” Ernesto Maravilla, chief of reporters of Bombo Radyo Koronadal, had said.

Popularly known in the province as “Bombo Bart,” Maravilla had said that most of the politicians offered to shoulder all the expenses if he decided to run but he declined. – With Jaime Laude, Ramil Bajo, AP

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