Feuding Maguindanao mayoral candidates reconcile

John Unson (Philstar.com) - October 23, 2015 - 12:35am

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Officials on Thursday precluded what could have been a hostile squabble for the mayoral post of Matanog town in Maguindanao by two influential blocs that belong to the Liberal Party (LP).

Cahar Ibay, a former board member of Maguindanao, withdrew his candidacy for mayor of Matanog in favor of reelectionist Kits Guro during a settlement dialogue in Davao City Thursday.

Ibay and Guro acknowledged they can best campaign together now for LP’s candidate for local, provincial, regional and national positions as friends.

The two of them have supporters identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The Ibay-Guro peace dialogue, held Thursday in Davao City, was jointly presided over by LP stalwarts Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and his elected deputy, Vice Gov. Lester Sinsuat.

Sinsuat is chairman of the Alliance of Iranun, Lumad and Maguindanaon (ALIM) political bloc, comprised of traditional and elected leaders known for wielding influence over no fewer than 200,000 voters in the province.

Mangudadatu, who is LP’s provincial chairman for Maguindanao, and Hataman both said Guro and Ibay can now peacefully campaign together for presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II in Iranun-dominated communities in the first district of Maguindanao.

Ibay had acceded to Mangudadatu and Hataman’s recommendation for him to aspire for a seat in the ARMM’s 24-seat Regional Assembly, touted as the “Little Congress” of the autonomous region, instead of contesting Guro’s bid for a second term as mayor of Matanog.

As special concession, Guro agreed to support the candidacy of Ibay’s running mate, vice mayoral candidate Hadji Nasser Imam, to seal their political solidarity deal.

Mangudadatu and Sinsuat are seeking reelection as Maguindanao governor and vice governor, respectively.

Their political principal, Hataman, had also filed his certificate of candidacy for ARMM governor with a written imprimatur from LP.

Mangudadatu’s candidacy for a third term is challenged by Kagui Ali Midtimbang, father-in-law of former ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, now detained in connection with the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

Only seven of Maguindanao’s 36 mayors are likely to support Midtimbang during the May 2016 elections. Mayors in most vote-rich towns in the province are identified with reelectionist running mates Mangudadatu and Sinsuat.  

Ibay and Guro also both belong to the influential ALIM bloc, which supports the candidacy of Hataman for ARMM governor.

During the Ibay-Guro reconciliation dialogue, Sinsuat and Mangudadatu reiterated their rabid rejection of the candidacy for ARMM governor of Sulu Vice Gov. Hadji Sakur Tan Sr.

Tan filed his candidacy for ARMM governor without any written permission from LP, a seemingly solitary initiative which is for many mayors in the autonomous region a serious infraction of party rules.

Sinsuat said ALIM members only recognize the candidacy of Hataman as LP’s anointed candidate for ARMM governor.

Sinsuat said he is thankful to Ibay and Guro for conceding to a peaceful settlement of their squabble for the mayoral post of Matanog.

“Now they campaign together as brothers for candidates of the Liberal Party for provincial, presidential and ARMM gubernatorial posts,” Sinsuat said.

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