By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Four erstwhile rival political clans in Maguindanao have joined forces and coalesced in a record-setting move seen to usher in a singular race for governor, vice governor, congressional seats and other provincial slots in the province in the 2019 midterm elections.
The families of Governor Esmael Mangudadatu and Vice Governor Lester Sinsuat held another ‘kanduli’ or thanksgiving, the grandest of three gatherings, last Monday at the huge Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Center (SKCC) here of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in celebration of their renewed alliance for the next elections.
Representatives of the Mastura and Midtimbang clans, which contested the Mangudadatu-Sinsuat team in 2013 and 2016 elections, joined Monday’s convergence, prompting the attendance of some 5,000 followers at the packed SKCC.
Less than a week earlier, the tandem led by the governor, the vice governor and Datu Odin Sinsuat municipal Mayor Ombra Sinsuat, the latter’s father, reached out to the Mastura and Midtimbang clans.
Datu Tocao Mastura, who served as mayor of Sultan Kudarat town for over two decades in different terms and is an acknowledged veteran politician in Cotabato region, accepted the offer and hosted a mini-kanduli at his residence.
Gov. Mangudadatu and Vice Gov. Sinsuat told reporters on Monday that another grand thanksgiving was being readied for the celebration of the four-clan coalition soon.
In a brief speech, Tocao’s son, incumbent Sultan Kudarat Mayor Shameem Mastura, confirmed his clan’s approval of the grand coalition “for the betterment of life and political landscape” in Maguindanao.
Former Mayor Midpantao Midtimbang, another veteran politician and religious local icon, cited in another speech the essence of the coalition “not only for political convenience but in the name of Islam.”
He is the younger brother of former Mayor Hadji Ali Midtimbang, who challenged Gov. Mangudadatu in the 2016 gubernatorial elections.
Journalists from different parts of Central Mindanao covered Monday’s event, and described the four-clan coalition as “unprecedented” in the country, especially among Moro communities.
“His goodness paid off at last. The resultant unification, which should be emulated in the entire ARMM, will further bring Maguindanao to greater heights,” Maranao scribe Mohammad “Moh” Saaduddin told the Manila Bulletin, referring to Gov. Mangudadatu’s leadership style and conciliatory policy-driven government platforms.