Mangudadatu to hold office in rival clan’s town

COTABATO CITY – On the heels of Presidential calls for peace and solidarity with Muslim Filipinos in the advent of the Islamic fasting Month of Ramadhan, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said he would start holding office in Shariff Aguak, the provincial government seat and hometown of his political rival Ampatuan clan.

Mangudadatu’s announcement came before President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay issued separate statements greeting all Muslims on the July 20 start of Ramadhan and urging them to fortify peace and amity-building efforts especially in the troubled spots of Southern Philippines including Maguindanao.

It came also after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed a resolution setting the transfer of the provincial legislative office to the old capitol complex at Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao from its temporary slot inside the nearby municipal government seat of such town.

Presiding Vice Governor Ismael “Dustin” Mastura subsequently asked Gov. Mangudadatu to transfer also his office to the same compound in Sultan Kudarat town, citing a decree of then President Marcos in 1970s that fixed the provincial seat at such municipality.

But legal luminaries in the provincial executive branch instead advised Gov. Mangudadatu to hold office in the old capitol complex in Shariff Aguak town (formerly known as Maganoy), which they said was named as an official seat by the Batasang Pambansa (BP) through an amendatory law passed in 1982.

The same BP law was invoked by now detained former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. in erecting a modern provincial capitol complex adjacent to their residential area in Shariff Aguak in 2003.

Gov. Mangudadatu, who lost his wife and some relatives in the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao that killed 57 people including 32 media practitioners, has been holding office in Buluan upon his election in 2010 for security reasons. More than 190 people including former Gov. Ampatuan Sr. and some of his children have been indicted and detained for the massacre.

In past interviews, the incumbent governor had stated that while he was espousing reconciliatory stance with his political rivals, the wheel of justice must take its “due course” in the court’s acquisition of jurisdiction over the suspects in the 2009 massacre.

In his speech at the July 18 inauguration of the RBSPC building in Buluan, he said had earlier opted to hold temporary office in his hometown for security reason and to avoid unnecessary act of provocation that may disrupt his administration’s revitalized peace and development campaign in Maguindanao.

Yet Mangudadatu announced at the recent press conference that ”necessary preparations” had been made  for him return the provincial executive offices to the old capitol site in the Ampatuan clan’s Shariff Aguak hometown.

“I will hold office in Shariff Aguak weekly starting next month,” he said, declining though to give details of his planned move.

Mangudadatu quickly added that he would retain his “satellite office” in Buluan, particularly at the newly-completed peace center, which was inaugurated in time with the instant settlement of a family feud that had left two persons killed and another wounded in a five-year old village leadership rivalry in Parang town.

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