Faith and Politics

PUNCHLINE

by Ali G. Macabalang

There seems to be unabated if not growing cases of political practices turning affront to Islamic tenets in component areas of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao now replaced by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Politics-related deaths, vote-buying and other forms of intimidations were happening before the advent of ARMM and BARMM, the intensity of such shenanigans heightened during and after the Cory Aquino regime-crafted autonomy.

In the advent of the 29-year old ARMM, vote-buying in Lanao del Sur once peaked to as high as P10,000 to P15,000 per voter in Maguing town when newbie “Marimar” joined the municipal mayoral race. Politicians in adjacent Lumba-Bayabao followed suit on a lesser amount averaging from P5,000 to P10,000 per voting family.

Thus, vote-buying politicians would ignore complaints about the absence of socio-economic and infra growth in Maguing and Lumba-Bayabao when elected to office. One elected mayor was once quoted as telling complaining constituents: “You already received your dividends of what you expected from me.”

In the regional level at a time the automated vote counting machines were introduced, many voters in Lanao del Sur have complained about receiving ballots already embedded with the name of a regional candidate. This happened, of course, with an expected hefty monetary change of hands with concerned authorities.

There was also once a case of candidate-buying in a Lanao Sur town. The incumbent mayor, on account of gratitude to elder leaders and a cash gift in millions of pesos, gave way to a negotiators’ candidate.

In Marawi City, similar negotiations have reportedly been happening in anticipation of the 2022 elections.

In Maguindanao, the same scheme had taken course on a bigger scale because it involved clans in the 2019 polls. The family of then Governor Esmael Mangudadatu forged solemnly (reportedly over the Qur’an) a covenant with two political clans in 2918 for the three agreeing families to put up a common gubernatorial candidate.

In the subsequent campaign period for the 2019 gubernatorial election, the two clans were seen rallying another bet for governor who eventually defeated Mangudadatu’s younger brother Freddie, then president of provincial league of mayors. Hefty cash gifts were involved in the “change of hearts” by the two clans, the Mangudadatu family lamented.

Esmael Mangudadatu, who was elected 2nd District Congressman in 2019 after completing three gubernatorial terms, and 1st District Rep. Ronnie Sinsuat authored bills seeking to divide their province into two: Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte. The bills were enacted last May, with the two authors thinking a plebiscite would be held before the 2022 polls.

The two lawmakers’ expectation did not happen as the Comelec set the referendum to a date “four months after” the 2022. There were rumors that hefty cash was involved in the stunted process.

Meanwhile, Reps. Mangudadatu and Sinsuat pushed hard for the passage of the bill, now enrolled for signature by the President, to postpone the Bangsamoro Transition Authority’s (BTA’s) lifespan to 2025 by postponing the 2022 election of regular parliament members. The BTA is the interim ruling body of BARMM.

The United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and reigning BARMM top brasses has decided to pay gratitude to the two lawmakers and other supporters, and to reciprocate proportionately those who “discretely” tried but failed to block the BTA extension call.

It endorsed Reps. Mangudadato in his bid to regain the gubernatorial slot and Sinsuat for reelection. It drafted former three-term 1st District Rep. Bai Sandra Sema for vice gubernatorial post for her being the main author of R.A. 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which created BARMM.

The UBJP pitted the three personalities against the candidates of the “Family Alliance” of sitting Gov. Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu and husband-Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu, whom it deemed involved in discrete efforts against the BTA extension. 

Since early this month up to this writing, Rep. Mangudadatu said, his family has been receiving alleged intimations from the rival camp, which happened to be led by his cousin and cousin-in-law . Gov. Mariam on Tuesday accused the UBJP of spending state funds to meddle in local politics. The regional party refuted the accusation, which it  described as “expected” always from a dissenting party. (AGM)

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