Maguindanao capitol workers mauled by UNA bets’ supporters
COTABATO CITY – Tension gripped the government center of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) here as three employees of the Maguindanao provincial capitol were mauled early Tuesday allegedly by angry supporters of candidates Midpantao Midtimbang and Abdusakur Tan.
Midtimbang is a candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) for assemblyman in Maguindanao’s second legislative district in the ARMM’s Regional Assembly. Three representative-legislators are voted to each district of the region’s five-component provinces.
Tan is UNA’s bet for ARMM governor against incumbent Governor Mujiv Hataman of the pro-administration Liberal Party.
Hundreds of provincial and ARMM police, backed by military forces, have cordoned off the place, and employees reporting for office work said the situation had been tense, to say the least.
Midtimbang said three men were prevented by his supporters to take the memory cards of the vote counting machine supposed to be designated for the canvassing last night at the Sharif Kabunsuan Cultural Center (SKC) here. He said the men insisted on spiriting out the paraphernalia and were badly hurt when the crowd began to move uncontrollably.
In some instances, employees of the Office of the Regional Treasurer (ORT) and the Regional Economic Zone Authority (Reza) had to be escorted out of their offices as the angry mob was suspicious that the employees were secretly bearing some of the memory cards locked inside the SKC arts theater.
Police identified one of the three mauled persons as Rizalino Jimenez, a driver. They temporarily withheld the identities of the two other persons, who were reportedly mauled and stripped to their underwear by the angry supporters at around 7 a.m., said Senior Insp. Carlo Jurinario, chief of the City Police’s Station II.
Canvassing of votes
Hundreds of UNA supporters surrounded the entrance and exit gates of the SKC inside the ARMM Complex, where the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBC) was supposed to have convened early evening Monday.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu told the Inquirer by phone that the PBC had convened and started the canvassing of local votes in Buluan town on Tuesday.
Midtimbang said his camp earlier petitioned the Commission on Elections en banc to direct Comelec’s provincial office to hold the provincial canvassing at the SKC, it being a “neutral ground” for all the contending parties.
However, the PBC had to fold up before it could start canvassing Monday night as it received a new en banc resolution to hold the canvassing at the Legislative Session Hall of Maguindanao in Buluan town.
Midtimbang and his supporters said they were holding responsible for electoral fraud at least three employees of the provincial capitol caught in “illegal possession” of the VCM memory cards.
He said his lawyers have filed appropriate charges against three arrested suspects, in violation of the Omnibus Election Code and for criminal offenses.
Mangudadatu said Midtimbang and his supporters would also be charged with criminal liability for the mauling incident and for obstruction of justice by preventing the completion of the ongoing canvassing. JE/rga