Mindanao politicians find way to ease tensions, cut costs in political campaignsBy Edwin O. Fernandez, Julie S. Alipala and Williamor Magbanua
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – If things happened as planned, the May 2013 midterm elections in Mindanao would not be as bloody and costly as in the years past.
In Maguindanao, Mayor Tocao Mastura of Sultan Kudarat town will challenge incumbent Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu on a duel that many believe could be the first ever bloodless balloting to happen in 2013.
Mastura, the official candidate of Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) for the gubernatorial post in Maguindanao, has already publicly declared his candidacy and vowed to apply what he called the “spiritual awakening” campaign format.
“This campaign format will be above board, no mudslinging, no hitting below the belt and lastly anchored on Islamic belief that uttering bad words against another is forbidden,” Mastura said.
Mastura used to be the provincial chair of the Liberal Party but the “equity of the incumbent” policy forced him to seek another political group.
“Despite this, I still believe and pursue the ‘Daang Matuwid’ campaign of President Aquino,” he added.
Mangudadatu, the LP standard bearer, will seek his second term.
Both Mangudadatu and Mastura expressed willingness to sign a peace covenant under which both would commit not to attack the rival camp or ridicule any political foe during the campaign period.
There will be less violence in Basilan as Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Acting Governor Mujiv Hataman claimed that he has already cleared the path for two families– the Akbars and Hatamans –to run under one political ticket.
Last week, Basilan Governor Jum Akbar was officially proclaimed as reelectionist for 2013, while Hataman’s elder brother, Rep. Jim Hataman, will also seek reelection instead of going against Akbar.
Vice Governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul’s eldest son, Kim, will run for his father’s post. Hataman said the one-slate policy has been the “first in the history of Basilan.”
“Aside from preventing election-related violence, this election will be less expensive. Elected officials, as they are perceived to be, will not be “forced” to engage in corrupt practices once they assume office because they would not be thinking about how much they have spent in the campaign,” Hataman said.
Most of the candidates, including those gunning for mayor in Basilan’s 11 towns and two cities, will run unopposed, according to Hataman.
Hataman said Sulu Governor Anbusakur Tan has been trying to do the same in his province, talking to candidates for a one-slate policy.
Sources said Tan started with himself, giving up his intention to run for ARMM governor against Hataman, who was chosen by President Benigno Aquino III as the administration’s bet.
The same could be happening in North Cotabato, where Gov. Lala Taliño-Mendoza would be seeking reelection. Reports revealed that First District Rep. Jesus Sacdalan had backed out from his plan to challenge Taliño-Mendoza, and would instead seek reelection.
Taliño-Mendoza’s archrival, former North Cotabato governor Manny Piñol, upon the prodding of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, has reportedly decided to run for the congressional seat representing the province’s third district.
Taliño-Mendoza shared the view of having “less tension” with this arrangement.
Second District Rep. Nancy Catamco will seek reelection. She will be challenged by North Cotabato Vice Governor Gregorio Ipong and former Rep. Bernardo Piñol, Jr.