Maguindanao communities vow safe, clean polls

The Philippine Star

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Some 5,000 representatives of local communities in the second district of Maguindanao pledged to help the Commission on Elections administer safe and honest elections in May during the first ever provincial barangay peace and governance summit Sunday.

The summit was held in Buluan town, organized by the office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and supported by the executive department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The event provided participants a venue to air their suggestions to improve governance in their towns.

Barangay officials who led delegations to the summit from various towns, also reiterated their support to the October 15, 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Our barangay leaders ought to support the Mindanao peace process because our provincial and regional officials, no less, are fully supporting the initiative,” said Northern Kabuntalan Mayor Ramil Dilangalen, spokesman of the 36-member league of mayors in Maguindanao.

Barangay officials who attended the summit told reporters they will exercise their  authority, as provided for by the Local Government Code, to help the Comelec enforce the election gun ban to ensure peaceful elections in May.

“It’s fascinating to see them take the lead in seeing to it that people under them can exercise their right of suffrage freely and peacefully come May 2013. We ought to thank the provincial government of Maguindanao for this,” said lawyer Makmod Mending, Jr., regional local government secretary of ARMM.

Many barangay officials also learned, from presentations during the summit, that the provincial government has already distributed thousands of free rubber tree and African palm oil seedlings to local farmers, enough for 2,300 hectares of arable lands in the first and second districts of Maguindanao.

“And we intend to distribute more in the coming months,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu told reporters covering the summit that his administration has also been implementing socio-economic and infrastructure projects in areas where there are ancestral lands of Maguindanao’s indigenous non-Moro Teduray and Lambangian groups.

Hataman, who attended the summit, said he and Mangudadatu will launch Tuesday in Barangay Tubak in Ampatuan town, also in the second district of the province, the ARMM’s special government services convergence project in support of President Aquino’s Southern Mindanao peace process.

The project, dubbed as health, education, livelihood programs and other security and governance interventions, or HELPS, aims to directly address poverty and underdevelopment in recipient-barangays.

Sunday’s barangay peace and governance summit in Buluan was preceded by Saturday’s gathering, as initial phase of the same activity, in Datu Odin Sinsuat town of thousands of barangay leaders and their constituent-sectoral representatives from across the 11 towns in the first district of Maguindanao.

The summit in Datu Odin Sinsuat was jointly presided over by the incumbent mayor of the municipality, Datu Lester Sinsuat, and Mangudadatu.

Mayor Sinsuat is concurrent chairman of the influential Association of Lumad, Iranon and Maguindanaon (ALIM) leaders in Maguindanao. The group is a staunch supporter of President Aquino’s peace overture with the MILF.

Participants to the separate summits in Buluan and Datu Odin Sinsuat also expressed support to the provincial government’s peace and reconciliation efforts aimed at resolving clan wars involving local Moro families. - John Unson

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