A photo released by the ARMM Bureau of Public Information shows Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan, 2nd from right, of the Muslim autonomous region, and his father, former Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., extreme right, with ex-Sultan Kudarat Mayor Tucao Mastura, 2nd from left, and Sultan Mastura Mayor Armando Mastura, after a historical unity meeting on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 in Makati City.
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 22, 2009) - In an unprecedented development in Maguindanao’s political history, stalwarts of political clans in the province convened in Makati City on Wednesday and have forged unity ahead of next year’s local and national elections.
The meeting was aimed at bringing peaceful political atmosphere in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a press statement said.
The ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information said that Mayor Datu Midpantao Midtimbang, of Guindulungan town, who is one of the prime movers of the unity meeting, said former Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan and his son, ARMM Gov. Datu Zaldy Ampatuan had initiated the talks in a bid to place the province under a strong and unified leadership and set aside political differences so as to hasten the government’s peace and development efforts.
“This event should not be perceived as repositioning or realignment of political leaders in the province for the coming 2010 elections,” said Midtimbang, one of the prime movers of the historical gathering of some of Mindanao’s most influential leaders.
Ampatuan had earlier requested the mayor to invite the leaders of Maguindanao’s political clans to discuss the unity efforts. The province’s political leaders have pledged loyalty and support to Ampatuan’s leadership.
The Ampatuans expressed gratitude to the local leaders and vowed to strengthen their unity. They also vowed to support the peace and development efforts in all the towns.
“I am glad that today, with the support of all the political leaders, we have finally agreed to set aside political and vested interest for the welfare of our beloved province and for our people,” the young Ampatuan said.
His father also pledged to help sustain the government’s peace and development agenda in Maguindanao.
“We have initiated this unity effort because we want to end all political bickering, we want development for our people and we want to prove to the country and to the world that it is not impossible for Maguindanaon leaders and people to unite for the common good,” the old Ampatuan said.
Among those who attended the unity meeting were former gubernatorial candidate for Shariff Kabunsuan, Datu Tucao Mastura and leaders of various political clans - the Sinsuats, Matalams, Sangkis, Midtimbangs, Biruars, Dilangalens, Makapeges and Tomawis. They also set aside their political differences and recognized the need to unite for the welfare of the province.
Political situation in the province was marred by animosity among local leaders as a result of the hotly contested gubernatorial election of the province of Shariff Kabunsuan in 2007, and its eventual abolition late last year after the Supreme Court ruled that its creation in 2006 was unconstitutional.
Shariff Kabunsuan was carved out from Maguindanao province by virtue of a legislation passed by the ARMM’s Regional Assembly. (Mindanao Examiner)