By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Relatives and supporters have called for justice in the recent killing of a barangay chairman in Pandag, Maguindanao in what residents suspected to be the start of election fever in the province.
Guiamaludin Mamalinta, elected chairman of Barangay Pandag, was shot dead on August 7 outside his village hall by four bonnet-wearing armed men aboard a black Grandia van, according to initial investigations.
Hundreds of relatives and sympathizers gathered on August 11 at a covered court in Barangay Pandag to mourn the killing of Mamalinta, and demand for swift dispensation of justice.
Bangsamoro Parliament Member Khadafeh Mangudadatu, one of dozens of key mourners, batted for thorough probe in the killing and appealed for sobriety among relatives and supporters.
Mangudadatu said the incident would be better left to proper authorities to resolve, prodding bereaved relatives that “violence will only worsen when emotion is uncontrolled to spill another violent act of revenge.”
His wife, incumbent Pandag town Mayor Zihan Mamalinta-Mangudadatu, a relative of the victim, told reporters that the village chairman’s killing was the first life-taking violence so far in her municipality for about six year.
“Let us not be cowed by threats or challenges to the tranquility of our community, but we must avoid revenge as a recourse,” the lady mayor told her constituents in Pilipino through a live broadcast on Aug. 11.
Residents believed that the killing of Chairman Mamalinta could be a “sign of the start of election fever” in the province.
They said the fatality was a vocal supporter of calls for an extension in the lifespan Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and for the ratification in a referendum of the new law dividing the province into Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur.
Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu is main author of Republic Act No. 11550, which splits the province, and of one of four bills in the lower Congress for deferment of the 2022 Bangsamoro parliament poll to extend the BTA operations to 2025.
The lawmaker, former three-term governor and relative-in-law of the slain village leader, had earlier disclosed to the media that some quarters in Maguindanao have been opposed to the splitting of the province and the postponement of the 1st regional parliament election.
The Commission on Elections has yet to set the date for the referendum, even as the 18th Congress is deliberating on election-resetting bills. (AGM)