[Sultan Kudarat Mayor Hadji Tucao Mastura, candidate for Maguindanao governor of the United Nationalist Alliance, has confirmed that the coalition has not fielded an UNA candidate for the congressional seat in the first district of the province in support of the re-election bid of Rep. Sandra Sema of the Liberal Party. JOHN UNSON INQUIRER FILE PHOTO]

MAGUINDANAO, APRIL 15, 2013 (INQUIRER) While the provincial chapters of the United Nationalist Alliance and the Liberal Party are now locked in electoral intramural, both groups have a common bet for the congressional seat in the first district of the province.

Hadji Tucao Mastura, figurehead of the United Nationalist Alliance in Maguindanao, announced during the first major sortie on Monday in Talayan town that the party's candidate for the congressional seat in the First District of Maguindanao is re-electionist Rep. Sandra Sema, (photo at right) an LP stalwart.

Sema, whose district also covers Cotabato City, is a staunch political supporter of House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. and President Benigno Aquino III.

Mastura, incumbent municipal mayor of Sultan Kudarat, is UNA’s candidate for governor of the province, contesting the re-election bid of Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, LP’s provincial chairman for Maguindanao.

Mastura and his political backers on Monday held a day-long proclamation rally in Talayan, hometown of his runningmate, UNA vice gubernatorial candidate Kagui Ali Midtimbang.

Broadcast journalist Sam Sali, who covered the event live for Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City, said he clearly heard Mastura announced Sema as their candidate for the congressional seat in the province's First District.

Sali said the announcement was aired throughout Central Mindanao live by dxMS via a remote broadcast facility.

Sema’s re-election bid is being contested by Zenny Dilangalen, spouse of former Rep. Didagen Dilangalen, whom she defeated with an overwhelming vote lead during the May 2010 elections.

UNA’s provincial chapter did not pit any member as its official candidate for the congressional post in the first district of Maguindanao.

The party anointed Annie Datumanong-Hataman, daughter of now outgoing Maguindanao Second District Rep. Simeon Datumanong, as candidate for the post his patriarch is to vacate after the completion of his third term on June 30 this year. The LP, on the other hand, pitted Zajid Mangudadatu as candidate for the same congressional post.

With UNA’s support, Sema is assured of “command votes” from the ancestral political bailiwicks of Mastura, the adjoining Sultan Kudarat and Sultan Mastura towns, where there are more than 50,000 registered voters.

Several UNA re-electionist mayors, candidates for municipal and provincial positions attended the proclamation rally in Talayan, which was also graced by a senior party official from Manila, former local government undersecretary Wenceslao Andanar, and re-electionist senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan.

On Mastura’s instigation, Honasan promised to stand at the halls of Senate, for the interest of the on-going peace overture between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, if elected.

Like their rivals in the LP, Mastura and his partymates in the province have also been very vocal of their support to the on-going peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The MILF’s chief negotiator, Mohaquer Iqbal, was earlier reported by Catholic station dxND in Kidapawan City as having announced that their central committee cannot endorse any candidate.

Iqbal hinted, however, that it is important for candidates to explain to Moro communities how they intend to push the Mindanao peace process forward if elected for voting residents to vote for them during the actual polling day next month.

The provincial chapter of UNA in Maguindanao is using as campaign pitch a slogan “spiritual awakening towards tuwid na daan” to convince voters of the party’s intention of furthering good governance, based on Islamic principles, if Mastura is elected.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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