BULUAN, Maguindanao—You can’t win ’em all. But the President’s Senate candidates might just win over to their side the province that gave Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s candidates a questionable 12-0 sweep in the 2007 elections—this time legitimately, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said on Friday.
Mangudadatu, Mr. Aquino’s party mate in the Liberal Party, said much had changed in the province since the President took over in 2010, noting that the political reforms put in place by the administration are sure to win it for the 12 Team PNoy candidates.
“[The people] are already being moved by change. They want what the President is doing. That’s why the candidates carried by the President will get the people’s votes,” Mangudadatu said before the start of a Team PNoy campaign rally yesterday led by President Aquino.
“They will all win,” Mangudadatu added.
Former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. is one of Arroyo’s coaccused in the electoral sabotage case filed against the former President in connection with her alleged instruction that the local leader ensure a 12-0 victory in Maguindanao for her candidates in the 2007 senatorial elections.
It has been almost four years since Mangudadatu’s wife, loved ones and supporters as well as dozens of journalists were killed in what could easily be the worst case of election-related violence in the world.
The principal accused are led by Ampatuan, the province’s avowed strongman then, and his sons, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.
“There has been a huge change. The people no longer want to be taken advantage of. Now, they want to be the ones in control,” Mangudadatu said. “We’re generally peaceful here. There’s no more coercion.”
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, one of the apparent victims of the alleged fraud in Maguindanao and in the ARMM, asked the political leaders and supporters who gathered at the rally to give him a full six-year term.
Pimentel served less than two years of his term because of electoral fraud. Former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri resigned in 2011 after serving four years of the six-year Senate term that was rightfully Pimentel’s.
“I hope to leave Maguindanao with fond memories this time,” Pimentel told reporters before the campaign rally held at a gymnasium in this town.
“You know, a 12-0 sweep for administration candidates in Maguindanao is possible but it should be based on the real votes of the people,” Pimentel added.
Addressing the crowd, Pimentel said the prospect of all administration candidates winning was quite possible, even without cheating.
“It can be done legally and legitimately,” Pimentel said.
President Aquino, Pimentel, and other administration senatorial candidates Sen. Loren Legarda, former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros and Benigno Aquino IV were in Maguindanao to give support to the reelection bid of Mangudadatu.
Mr. Aquino and the Team PNoy slate are also pushing for the candidacy of ARMM officer in charge Mujiv Hataman for the governorship of the autonomous region.