By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Former beauty titlist Sarifa Akeel-Mangudadatu is virtually left without a rival in the gubernatorial race for Sultran Kudarat after the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) cancelled the certificate of candidacy of her lone opponent.
The First Division of the COMELEC under Commissioner Rowena Rueda-Guanzon upheld the petition of the female candidate earlier filed against Datu Ali Pax Mangudadatu, sitting mayor of Datu Abdullah Sangki town, Maguindanao, for alleged lack of residency and violation of the Omnibus Election Code provisions.
“Let the records of the case be forwarded to the Law department of the Commission for the conduct of a preliminary investigation relative to the election offense aspect of this case,” the first division said in its 23-page decision penned last Jan. 18.
The decision, though dissented by Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, another member of the first division, stipulated for possible prosecution of the male gubernatorial candidate for on issue of implied double registration, according to legal luminaries.
They said Datu Pax Ali Mangudadatu, while sitting as town Mayor in Maguindanao ventured into filing his COC in the adjacent Sultan Kudarat province in an indication of double registration prohibited by law.
They said the mayor, possibly with the backing of his incumbent governor-parents, can still appeal for reconsideration before the en banc of the Poll Body. If the decision is sustained by the en banc, the affected party may still elevate its appeal to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
Otherwise, they said, Sharifa Akeel-Mangudadatu would need just one vote to get elected governor in Sultan Kudarat amid her lack of a rival.
The petitioner, a former 2018 Miss Asia and Pacific, is married to Maguindanao Second District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, a second cousin of the mayor’s father – incumbent Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto “Ten” Mangudadatu.
The lawmaker bids to return to the gubernatorial post in Maguindanao he held for three terms (2010-2019) against incumbent Governor Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu, mother of the mayor and wife of the Sultan Kudarat governor.
He has been anointed by the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, the ruling political bloc of the regional autonomous government’s government-of-the-day.
Sharifa runs under the party of Presidential candidate Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, the popular mayor of Manila,
The mayor’s governor-governors lead the “Family Alliance” group that challenges the rule of the UBJP. (AGM)