Ex-Rep. Mangudadatu hits intensified ‘political harassment’

By Ali G. Macabalang  

BULUAN, Maguindanao – Former Congressman Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu has lamented anew what he deemed as continuing “harassment” against his family by the camp of the re-elected governor of this province, deploring also a Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) official for allegedly acting like a “war dog” by his political rival.

A screenshot photo of the online interview of former Maguindanao Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu by DWIZ anchorwoman Lolly Acosta on Tuesday, July 4.

Interviewed here via zoom over Manila-based DWIZ on Tuesday, July 6, Mangudadatu deplored particularly the way Lt. Col. Bernard Lao, new CIDG chief of the Police Regional Office (PRO) for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), for alleged misdemeanor in enforcing an arrest warrant against his two younger siblings – former mayors Ebrahim “Jhong” of this town and Freddie of Mangudadatu municipality.

He said the arrest warrant stemmed from a case filed before the May 9, 2022 election campaign period by Jessieden Ali-Martinez preceding her lodging of mayoral candidacy in this town, for the killing on February 15, 2022 of her father Sanday Ali, who was then serving as Buluan municipal treasurer.   

Although the incident occurred 21 years and four months ago – a period he deemed past the legal prescription time, he said, the provincial prosecutors’ office filed the case before the Regional Trial Court-Branch 15 in Cotabato City. Presiding Judge Annabel Piang issued a warrant for the arrest of the two siblings, he added.

He said his respondent-siblings through their legal counsel subsequently filed a “petition to quash” the suit, prompting the judge to dismiss the case. But on petition by complainant Ali-Martinez, the Court of Appeals-Mindanao issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) with a two-month effective mandate for the serving of the warrant from May 5 to July 5 this year, the former lawmaker recalled.

The entire process, ranging from the filing of mayoral candidacy of Ali-Martinez, the filing of the alleged murder case up to warrant execution, was allegedly instigated by Gov. Mariam and husband-former Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto “Teng” Mangudadatu to “cripple us” politically, he narrated.

According to him, the former Sultan Kudarat governor is his paternal second cousin, while complainant Ali-Martinez is his aunt. The slain Buluan treasurer Sanday Ali was “first cousin of our grandmother,” he said, pointing out that their kinship has turned sour because of political rivalry.

He believed the intense political rivalry began in the 2019 polls when fielded his respondent-brother Freddie to run for governor after he “graduated” from three-term gubernatorial stint spanning 2010-2019. He ran for the Congressional second district seat and won, but his brother lost to Mariam, who was then an outgoing Datu Abdullah Sanki mayor.

On different occasions, Toto Mangudadatu had complained of being persecuted allegedly by his estranged relatives during his congressional reign, citing in particular the alleged instigation by the Mangudadatu couple for the recall of his trusted and long-time police escorts. The recall did not materialize when it was superseded by the regional police headquarter upon his appeal, the former lawmaker said.

He said the rival camp’s alleged conspiracy with key police officials serving Maguindanao has persisted up to these days and even peaked “before, during and after” the May 9, 2022 elections as manifested by the acts of the CIDG, notably Lt. Col. Lao.

In at least two occasions, he said, Lt. Col. Lao led dozens of heavily armed cops and CIDG operatives in combing all known addresses and hideouts in Maguindanao of siblings Freddie and Jhong Mangudadatu.

In the early morning of Monday, July 4, he said, Lt. Col. Lao alongside cops and CIDG operatives, mostly concealing facial identities with bonnets, swooped on various parts of this town and tried this time to forcibly break into the house of former Assemblyman and BARMM Parliament member Khadafeh “Toy” Mangudadatu, another younger brother now elected mayor of Pandag municipality.

He said he and other relatives prevented the entry of Lao and his men inside the residential compound here of the newly elected mayor because such a place is not among target addresses mentioned in the arrest warrant. Besides, Respondent Freddie and Jhong were not holed out the compound, he said.

In the confrontation, he added, Lao allegedly showcased arrogance and even voiced invectives to him while some of the operatives pointed guns to relatives including elected Buluan vice mayor Gigeth Kadalem-Mangudadatu, wife of Jhong.

P3-million reward money

At Tuesday’s interview here, ex-Rep. Mangudadatu disclosed and lamented an alleged offer by Gov. Mariam of a P3-million reward for the arrest of his two brothers, and allegedly instigated the posting of photos of the duo in all police stations across Maguindanao tagging the respondents as top “public enemies.”

He said Lao could be craving for the reward money apart from the alleged “usual pampering” of law enforcers and other local authorities by the lady governor and her husband.

Counter measures

The former lawmaker called on the top leaderships of the Philippine National Police and the CIDG to sanction Lt. Col. Lao in his reaasignment in the BARMM from MIMAROPA.

He said his family has commissioned a battery of lawyers to lodge corresponding complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao against Lao and his cohorts in their capacity as government servants.

Also, he said, their legal counsel will pursue the dismissal of the murder case by RTC Judge Piang because the two-month mandate by the Court of Appeals-Mindanao in the warrant execution already lapsed on July 5.

During the pendency of the warrant, he said, siblings Ferddie and Jhong went into hiding “not because of guilt” but due to the unabated persecution by their estranged relative-politicians.

Ex-Rep. Mangudadatu said the killing of Sanday Ali happened when he was elected mayor of this town but was out of town celebrating his late wife Ginalyn’s Fbeurary 14 birthday.

“If I were present in Buluan, perhaps I would have been included in the charge sheet as another suspect,” he said in Filipino.

He pointed out that the accusation was allegedly fabricated because it was impossible for his siblings to harm or kill their own grandfather.

Prior to Sanday Ali’s killing, the Buluan assistant treasurer, his wife and a child were “massacred” under questionable circumstances that the local police had never looked into, the former lawmaker said.

Acceptance of defeat

The former lawmaker ran for governor in the latest polls under the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF’s) United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) but lost to Gov. Mariam.

He said he accepted his electoral defeat, the first in his more than two decades of political career, and was poised to cooperate with the just program and policies of the lady governor’s administration “for the sake of peace in our clan and for the sake of the Maguindanao constituents.”

However, he said, his estranged relatives have allegedly persisted in persecuting him and his family to “cripple” all potential rivals in future political exercises.

Lopsided police priorities

In his interview by DWIZ anchorperson/veteran journalist Lolly Acosta, the former lawmaker decried his perceived “lopsided” local police priorities in law enforcement.

He cited the cases of the January 25, 2015 killing of 44 elements of the PNP’s Special Action Forces in Mamasapano town and the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan town of 57 people including his wife and female kin alongside 32 journalists as bloodier incidents with worse implication.

But some identified suspects in the two massacres have been roaming freely in areas under jurisdictions of incumbent politicians allied with the camp of the lady governor, he lamented.

He also deplored his perceived local police inaction on the strafing of the house here of Jhong Mangudadatu on April 1 this year and the fatal shooting of three BPAT elements guarding clustered voting precincts in this town during the May 9 elections.

Media entities, including the Philippine Muslim Today newspaper and the DWIZ radio station tried but failed to get reactions or comments from the regional and national CIDG offices as well as the camp of Gov. Mariam. (For this writer, reactions may be sent to alimac.bulletin@gmail or conveyed at 09287298494.)

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