MAGUINDANAO POLITICIANS JOINED RULING LAKAS-CMD

Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, July 21, 2003 By John Unson (Star) The political opposition in the province met an apparent natural death last week when all of its town mayors, vice mayors and leaders of influential clans reconciled their differences and joined the ruling Lakas-CMD party as a local "power bloc."

The event was the first ever in the three-decade history of the province, known as a hotbed of bloody conflicts among feuding clans, who mostly maintain arsenals of high-powered firearms to perpetuate their political power.

Engineer Norie Unas, provincial administrator and spokesman of Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan, said even Lakas stalwarts House Speaker Jose de Venecia and Justice Secretary Simeon Datumanong were amazed by such a gesture of unity of the Maguindanaoan leaders.

De Venecia and Datumanong jointly administered the oaths of officers of the new Lakas-CMD (Christian-Muslim Democrats) members in a gathering in Makati City last week.

Unas said De Venecia, Datu—manong and Ampatuan agreed to call the newly formed local political bloc as Lakas-CMD "Maguin—danaoan ensemble" to project the solidarity of Muslim and non-Muslim party members.

Unas said they are certain that 90 percent of Maguindanao mayors, vice mayors and provincial board members, who now comprise the political bloc, would run unopposed in next year’s local polls.

"We are also convinced that no one among the leaders belonging to the bloc would contest the re-election bid of Gov. Ampatuan," he said.

He said members of the bloc, some of them scions of Maguindanaoan royalty, would conduct dialogues before the 2004 elections to agree on elective positions for each clan in the provincial level and in the 26 municipalities to ensure "equitable sharing of power" among the local political factions.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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