NEWS FEATURE:  ARRM  GOVERNORS  OUSTED FROM LAKAS; DEMORALIZED  BACKERS

MANILA, NOVEMBER 27, 2009
(STAR) By John Unson - The expulsion from the administration’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD party of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and his father, Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., has demoralized the ranks of the party’s chapter in the ARMM, leaving supporters “orphaned.”.

A mayor in Basilan, who asked not to be identified, said the development has a “radioactive effect” on the stature of their supposedly monolithic bloc, which is loyal to the administration.

“We feel as if we’ve become orphaned. One alleged wrongdoing of a party mate should not in any way affect other members of the party, particularly local officials outside of Maguindanao,” the mayor said, referring to the alleged involvement of the ARMM governor’s younger brother Andal Ampatuan Jr. in Monday’s massacre of 57 people in a secluded area in the province.

There were efforts by the party’s regional chapter to resolve squabbles between powerful party members vying for nomination as candidates for hotly contested posts in parts of ARMM when the Ampatuans were expelled from the party.

“With this situation now, some of us might jump to other parties. We are facing a serious dilemma now,” a Tausug elected official told The STAR.

Maranaw mayors in Lanao del Sur, a component province of ARMM, said they remain politically loyal to the region’s chief executive, but are worried that they, too, could be “persecuted” by certain quarters if they would show their continued support.

“If we join other parties, will we be accepted considering that we have already been unduly branded as warlords? The political situation now in the ARMM is so uncertain,” lamented an elected official in the first district of Maguindanao.

A town councilor in Tawi-Tawi said people from outside ARMM should not lump political leaders in the region as “the same bananas” just because one of them has been implicated in the massacre.

“We respect the decision of our national party leadership in dropping from the rolls our regional party chairman, but the party should also act on our situation now. One misbehavior of a certain leader should not be a cause for our disintegration,” the source pointed out.

ARMM provincial governors want to appeal the expulsion of the governor. Engineer Norie Unas, Maguindanao’s provincial administrator and spokesman for the Ampatuan clan, said the governors in the provinces of ARMM have signified readiness to appeal to the party’s national chairman, Gilbert Teodoro, to reconsider the expulsion of the ARMM governor.

Expulsion a welcome move

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno lauded Teodoro’s move to expel the Ampatuans from the party.

“I think the action of the executive committee (of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD) and Secretary Teodoro is an act of outrage and indignation, an action to tell everyone that they don’t condone these actions that were committed. It is a personal expression of outrage and justified outrage if I may add,” Puno said.

Lakas leaders met Wednesday night to vote on the Ampatuans’ expulsion from the party.

Public clamor continues to rise for President Arroyo to bring to justice her political allies, one of whom is accused of masterminding a massacre of at least 57 people, including 13 journalists.

Mrs. Arroyo was reported to be politically indebted to the Ampatuans for ensuring her victory in the 2004 presidential race.

Teodoro urged the government to arrest Ampatuan Jr. and those believed to be behind the “dastardly crime” and disarm groups in the area to prevent an escalation of violence. —Cecille Suerte Felipe


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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