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'Don't forget Maguindanao massacre'

Maguindanao Gov Esmael Mangudadatu and his son, Datu Powa, are flanked by provincial board Member Nash Imam (left) and Vice Gov. Lester Sinsuat (right) during Sunday’s mass induction to office of elected provincial and municipal officials at the public gymnasium of Buluan town in the second district of the province. JOHN UNSON

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines  --- Local executives were reminded Sunday not to forget the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre as a reminder that the political democracy  the province now enjoy was paid for dearly and as a warning that rule of warlords would never last.

Elected provincial and municipal officials, who took their oaths of office “en masse” at the public gymnasium of Buluan town in Maguindanao Sunday, also prayed for the political unity among them now to continue and for Malacañang’s peace overtures with Moro rebel groups to succeed.

The elected local executives from different towns, led by re-elected Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and incoming Vice Gov. Lester Sinsuat, were sworn into office by Judge Bansawan Ibrahim of the Regional Trial Court Branch 13 in Cotabato City.

Sinsuat, in a message, assured residents of Maguindanao that he and members of the provincial board will never be “politically treacherous” to Mangudadatu to ensure  delivery of services to local communities and to hasten the implementation of local peace and security projects.

Mangudadatu told his constituent leaders and spectators to the first ever mass induction of local executives in the province that the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre should also serve as inspiration for local communities to uphold their right of suffrage to prevent politicians from curtailing their political rights.

Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, and several relatives were among the 58 people that perished in the massacre, 32 of them journalists.

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The symbolic assumption to office of local officials from Maguindanao towns immediately preceded the signing of a peace covenant by leaders of two feuding Moro clans, from Datu Piang town in the second district of the province, at the residence of Mangudadatu, not far from the Buluan municipal gymnasium.

Sheik Abbas Kudanding, a senior field official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and Datu Putih Tukuran signed before the governor a peace pact ending their “rido” (clan war) sparked by political and territorial disputes.

A newly-elected member of the provincial board, lawyer Bobby Katambak, said Mangudadatu started initiating, along with Datu Piang Mayor Datu Genuine Kamaong, the reconciliation of the two clans during the campaign period.

Katambak said the governor convinced the leaders of both sides, which figured in fierce firefights using assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenades in several encounters in recent years, to reconcile.

“We consider the amicable settlement of this conflict right after our mass oath-taking ceremony as a very `positive sign’ indicating that the reconciliation thrusts of the present leadership in Maguindanao is gaining headway,” Katambak said.

The reconciliation of the two clans in Datu Piang, assisted by the director of the provincial police,  Senior Supt. Rudelio Jocson, brought to 31 the total number of violent clan wars settled by the provincial government since 2010.

“We still have around 32 to 37 clan wars that we need to settle amicably. We are confident that with the unity of the political leaders now in Maguindanao, these can all be settled soon,” Mangudadatu told reporters present in the signing of the peace covenant at his residence. 

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