Sunday, February 14, 2010

Politicians in tug-of-war over Maguindanao vacancies

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 14, 2010) - The protracted selection process for a full slate of officers-in-charge in the provincial government of Maguindanao is heating up with the alleged intervention of Church-backed sectors which are also supporting opposition presidential bid of Senator Benigno Aquino III.

Sources in the province said the problem in the selection process in Maguindanao even grew more complicated after conservative Muslim leaders joined the tug-of-war against the perceived “church interference” in the local affairs of the largely Muslim province.

Maguindanao is one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is a known bailiwick of President Gloria Arroyo, whose presidential candidate is former defense chief Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

Supporters of former congressman, Guimid Matalam, are also endorsing him to be the acting governor or officer-in-charge of Maguindanao province. At least 20 others are also interested in the same position, but some of them are known influential politicians in Maguindanao - Asnawi Sinsuat Limbona, Bongarsa Tomawis, Harris Mastura, Bai Mompong Mentang and Armando Lidasan.

Maguindanao vice governor Nariman Ambolodto is the current officer-in-charge in the province and civil groups backed by some Catholic church leaders are supporting calls for her to serve until June 30 when the elected governor takes over.

Sources did not identify the church leaders backing Ambolodto and Aquino.

Acting ARMM governor Ansaruddin Adiong appointed Ambolodto as acting governor of Maguindanao on December 15. Authorities arrested the governor of Maguindanao, Andal Ampatuan Sr and his sons led by ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan after they were implicated in the brutal murders of 57 people, including at least 31 journalists in November 23 in Maguindanao. The Ampatuans denied all the accusations against them.

Despite the charges against the Ampatuans and over a hundred others implicated in the carnage, many of their relatives and family members are also seeking elective posts in the May national polls.

There are also 10 vacancies in the Maguindanao provincial legislative council. More than 100 people have applied or nominated for the various vacancies from the acting governor to the legislative council in Maguindanao.

Adiong earlier created a committee headed by ARMM Interior Secretary Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman to screen all the aspirants to Maguindanao’s vacancies spawned by the indictment and arrest of elected provincial officials in connection to the massacre.

Sources said Adiong gave the screening committee a free hand in the selection of the final list of nominees, from among whom he would appoint promptly.

Other reports said the current governor of Maguindanao is allegedly supporting Aquino’s presidential bid and not Teodoro despite the province’s pro-administration stance. (Mindanao Examiner)

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