TALAYAN, Maguindanao: The opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) has announced its local candidates for the May 9 elections, among them a member of a powerful clan who is one of the suspects in a massacre that occurred in this province in 2009.
During the proclamation rally on Tuesday afternoon, the party standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay held raised hands with the local bets, including Sajid Ampatuan, former vice governor of Maguindanao and now running for the mayor of Shariff Aguak town.
“The local UNA candidates here know their politics…” UNA Spokesperson Mon Ilagan said. “We leave it to them their choices for the candidates, in this case it is the UNA gubernatorial candidate Datu Ali Midtimbang and his team [who]have chosen Datu Sajid Ampatuan.”
Sajid is the youngest brother of Zaldy Ampatuan, former governor of the restive Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The brothers were among the suspects in the Maguindanao massacre, where 58 people including 32 journalists were killed. The incident became known as the worst single-day election-related violence in the country.
The victims were slain on their way to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak for the filing of the certificate of candidacy of then-Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who was running against the powerful Ampatuan clan in the 2010 gubernatorial elections.
On Tuesday, Binay took his campaign to South Cotabato before attending the said proclamation rally, which was held in Talayan.
The candidates in UNA’s local ticket include, among others, former Talayan Mayor Ali Midtimbang (Zaldy’s father-in-law), and Ismael “Datu Dustin” Mastura, who are running for governor and vice-governor of Maguindanao, respectively.
Sajid’s wife Bai Zandria Ampatuan, mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, as well as Mayor Benzar Ampatuan of Mamasapano town are likewise running under UNA as re-electionists.
In a speech during the proclamation rally, Binay vowed to take Malacañang closer to the people in Mindanao.
“In order to show you that I will give those in Mindanao much attention and time, because I will set up a Malacañang in Mindanao, I will always visit you,” he said in Filipino.
Of Mindanao, he added, “It should be allotted time, it should be given attention, everyone should be provided help because we are all Filipinos, I promise you that.”
Binay also told the public that he is equipped with the experience to lead the country and that he was able to uplift the lives of those in Makati City, where he had served as mayor for a total of 21 years.
He said that poverty is still a problem in southern Philippines.
Binay also vowed to modernize agriculture, saying that he will add irrigated lands in Mindanao and lift the irrigation fee on farmers.
According to UNA, about 80,000 supporters in Maguindanao rallied behind Binay during the proclamation rally. REINA TOLENTINO