Sunday, February 07, 2010

Philippine Defense chief sees peaceful elections in Sulu

Dr. Sakur Tan, the provincial governor of Sulu.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / February 7, 2010) – Filipino Defense chief Norberto Gonzales assured peaceful elections in the southern province of Sulu after meeting with local politicians, government media said Sunday.

It said Gonzales with Sulu Governor Sakur Tan and Representative Munir Arbison and that both have agreed to peaceful elections in May. Tan, a religious man, is seeking reelection under the government’s political coalition Lakas-Kampi-CMD, while Arbison, who is on his third and last term, is running against the incumbent governor.

“Cultivating his old personal ties with the Tausugs, Gonzales convinced Governor Sakur Tan and Congressman Munir Arbison, together with their respective supporters who were either incumbent holders or candidates for elected local positions in Sulu, to put aside their arms and instead engage in a fair and brotherly competition,” the Philippine News Agency reported.

Last month, Senior Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, the regional police chief, ordered the investigation into the reports that some 300 firearms landed in the coastal town of Luuk.

Tan, citing intelligence reports, said the weapons were smuggled in Luuk by a still unidentified armed group after President Gloria Arroyo declared martial law in December in Maguindanao province where security forces recovered huge caches of light infantry and heavy artillery weapons allegedly owned by the powerful Ampatuan clan.

It was unknown whether the weapons came from Maguindanao or who owns arms cache.

The Ampatuan clan is one of the most feared in Mindanao and also among the wealthiest in the impoverished Maguindanao province, whose governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his sons, Zaldy Ampatuan, the regional governor, and Andal Ampatuan Jr., and several family members and relatives were linked by authorities to the gruesome killings of 57 people on November 23.
Among those killed were 31 journalists and wife and relatives of Buluan vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who is a candidate for governor of Maguindanao in next year’s polls. The victims were on a political caravan when they were abducted and killed by more then 100 gunmen allegedly led by Ampatuan Jr.

All of them were eventually arrested in connection with the brutal slayings. The Ampatuans denied all the accusations against them.

Tan last year also put Sulu under a state of emergency after Abu Sayyaf militants kidnapped three Red Cross workers. He also ordered security forces to dismantle all private armies of political warlords in the province.

Police also recruited some 2,000 civilians to form part of the Police Auxiliary Unit to help authorities fight terrorism and guard villages against rebel attacks.

The Abu Sayyaf group was also linked to last year’s failed assassination attempt on Tan outside his office in Patikul town. Militants bombed Tan’s convoy on May 13 that wounded 10 people, including a local town mayor Hatta Berto.

Tan just came from his office and on his way home when a motorcycle bomb exploded near his vehicle. Police later captured two suspected bombers Juhan Alimuddin and Sulayman Muin who confessed to investigators that they were hired by Tan’s political foe to kill the governor.
Manila has put up a one million peso-bounty for the arrest of those behind the failed assassination and religious and civil groups condemned the attack. (Mindanao Examiner)

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