ARMM leaders’ exodus to Liberal Party

COTABATO CITY – The five provincial governors in ARMM – Mamintal Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur, Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, Sakur Tan of Sulu, Sadikul Sahali of Tawi-Tawi and Jum Akbar of Basilan – led the exodus to the ruling party in what LP officials described as a proof of trailblazing electoral reforms in the so-called country’s “cheating capital.”

Two vice governors, 93 mayors, 53 board members, and 11 regional assemblymen joined the record-setting mass shift of political party affiliation.

The 22-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a zone of the so-called “command votes” that triggered the filing of electoral sabotage charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is now a stronghold of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s Liberal Party (LP). An overwhelming majority of the ARMM’s political force represented by 168 elected leaders formally joined the ruling party in a mass oath-taking rites at the LP headquarters in Cubao here, coinciding incidentally with the court’s grant of bail to the former lady chief executive from such indictment.

DOTC Secretary and LP president Mar Roxas, vice chairmen Senator Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and eight other top party leaders welcomed and administered the oathtaking ceremonies.

According to an LP press statement, incumbent municipal vice mayors and councilors are also set to follow suit in separate rites to be administered by the five provincial governors.

ARMM caretaker-Governor Mujiv Hatam, who witnessed Tuesday’s ceremonies, said the event exemplified the “commitment of Muslim leaders to flesh out the Aquino government’s agenda for reforms in the autonomous region.”

He said the Muslim leaders’ political exodus gave full meaning to the just July 9-18 relisting of voters that would cleanse the ARMM’s book of electors. Congress annulled the region’s list of 1.77 million voters on suspicion of being bloated with multiple registrants, “ghost” voters and other dubious characters.

Prior to their oath-taking, the 128 ARMM elected officials underwent an orientation at the LP headquarters that taught them about the ruling party’s working principles: Political liberty and equality; social liberty; and economic liberty.

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