COTABATO CITY – One of the younger siblings of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu has filed his certificate of candidacy (CoC) for governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a geopolitical entity which is being sought for abolition next year under a new law enacted by the 17th Congress just last July.
Ibrahim “Jhong” Mangudadatu, ex-mayor of Buluan, Maguindanao’s provincial capital, filed his CoC at the regional office here of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) about noon on Tuesday as a substitute for his cousin Baguadatu Mangudadatu. The latter had filed his CoC for ARMM governor during the lapsed regular period for filing of CoCs for the 2019 elections.
Mangudadatu was accompanied at the Comelec office here by Buluan municipal administrator Arnold Fernandez and Baguadatu, who waived his candidacy in favor of the former under the Lakas-CMD party.
“Other members of our family including me were surprised about his candidacy. That’s his personal choice. We really have no hand or prior knowledge about his move,” Gov. Mangudadatu told the Manila Bulletin.
Upon learning about his brother’s candidacy, the governor said he called up authorities including the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to convey the same explanation. The MILF does not expect an election next year for ARMM elective posts as provided for in R.A. 11054, also known as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which President Duterte signed into law last July 29.
The law seeks the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in lieu of the 29-year old ARMM, the conduct of a plebiscite on Jan. 21, 2019 for its ratification, and the formation of an interim body that will administer the transition process when the new law is ratified.
The governor said his brother’s candidacy would not alter his administration’s “consistent support” for BOL ratification “not only in Maguindanao but in other areas proposed for BARMM coverage.”
The new law seeks the inclusion in BARMM territory the entire ARMM, the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 villages in six town of North Cotabato. ARMM presently consists of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. Maguindanao has the largest number of registered voters in ARMM at more than 700,000.
The governor said he offered MILF Chief of Staff Sammy Gambal and other top front officials his physical presence in the campaign for the ratification of the new law.
“I assured MILF officials that they can bring me along in all places of campaign for the BOL ratification,” he said.
Local legal luminaries believed that the candidacy of the governor’s sibling “implied as presupposition” that the BOL will not be ratified or implemented.
On the other hand, they described it as a “blessing in disguise” due to public clamor for a swift action by the Supreme Court on a petition filed last month by Sulu Governor Sakur Tan II questioning the constitutionality of BOL, notably its provision on the adoption of a parliamentary system in BARMM governance.