Election Watchdog in Maguindanao Launched

By: Tu Alid Alfonso

April 11, 2013: The Commission on Election ARMM Regional Director Officer, Atty. Ray E. Sumalipao, was the keynote speaker in the launching of the Maguindanao Peace Advocates (MPA), which serves as the election watchdog in the coming midterm election held at the Alnor Complex, Sinsuat Avenue, Cotabato City on Thursday April 4, 2013.

The Maguindanao Peace Advocates launching started with a motorcade that moved around Cotabato City at 7 o’clock in the morning.

Attorney Sumalipao commended the initiative of the civil society organizations in Central Mindanao in organizing the MPA to help achieve the dreams for Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful and Peaceful (CHAMP) and Secure and Fair Election (SAFE) 2013” in Maguindanao and the other provinces covered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the political exercise come May 2013.

“We can have progress and development through electing good leaders as good leaders are advocates of good governance – honest, orderly, and peaceful election,” Lawyer Sumalipao said.

Atty. Sumalipao said that in achieving these dreams, the choice of the people should be ensured that their willpower be reflected in the result of the election.

“We could achieve these through your help as members of MPA, Presidents of different CSO’s, and your members will certainly contribute to the achievement of honest, orderly and peaceful election”, he added.

Atty. Sumalipao said further that this will be achieved with strong partnership with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in maintaining the peace and order in the community.

The ARMM has confronted by ridiculous issues and its critics tagged the region as the ‘cheating capital of the Philippines’.

“Every time I hear this tag na tayo ay capital cheating of the Philippines ay nagdurugo ang puso ko, why? It is not only because I am employee of ARMM, it is not only because that I am an official of the Commission on Election of ARMM but, for most, I am likewise from ARMM…that’s why my whole body will experience pain”,  Atty. Sumalipao expressed when he heard about this label.

Atty. Sumalipao has mentioned some peculiarities in the ARMM during election. He said that never in the history that security sector can’t be seen in the election time.

“Subukan natin na mawala ang AFP at PNP sa eksena, magkaka’election kaya tayo?” he said.

“During distribution of election paraphernalia always ang ating Election Officers ay nagkaka-problema because the municipal hall becomes an ambulance…ang municipal hall ay palipat-lipat, every time na may mananalo ililipat ang municipal hall”, he disclosed.

In response to this concern, the Brigade Commander of 603rd IB, AFP Col. Manolito Orense, INF (GSC), PA, has warned the election candidate officials on grave violations they may commit this May 2013 political exercise. “Tingnan natin kung gaano sila katigas”, Col. Orense said in the gathering.

Col. Orense has also assured the AFP’s full support to the Maguindanao Peace Advocates. “The AFP and PNP are always around you,” he promised.

The MPA Co-Coordinator Muslemin Abas and at the same time a volunteer of the KABALIKAT CIVICOM on his message, he remembered their bitter experience on the treatment of security sector to their group in 2010 election. “Dati sila pa (AFP/PNP) yung nagpapalayas sa amin sa falling precincts ngunit ngayon kasama na namin sila”, Mr. Abas lamented.

Mr. SupapoAmong of the members security sector that were present in the launching are: Chief RSTOG PSSupt Alberto Supapo who led the oath taking for the MPA Officers and respective heads of member-organizations; 6th ID, PA Col. Dickson Hermoso; Commanding Officer MBLT-4, Cotabato City Col. Custodio Parcon, Jr.; PSupt. Joel Casupanan.

The representative of the Asia Foundation Program Officer Rommel Dela Rosa, the Program Manager of Nonviolent Peaceforce Christopher Horwood, and Lawyer Noel Ben of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cotabato City Chapter also graced the activity.

The PPCRV representatives are Mindanao Coordinator Fr. David Procalla and the sub-Regional Coordinator for Maguindanao Mr. Abraham Peno.

Fr. Procalla emphasized that the creation of these coalition is not just because of funds but it’s about the core objectives of the coalition to achieve the CHAMP and Secure, and Fair Election (SAFE) 2013.

“The fund is just a secondary thing only…nabuo ang MPA hindi dahil sa fund, we have been contributing too,” he said. “This is just to help sustain the initiated already…we are here not for ourselves but for the Maguindanao”, Fr. Procalla has added.

The MPA is a coalition formed to address election-related violence in Maguindanao, which comprises alliances from 23 civil society organizations, including election monitoring groups such as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and representatives from the PNP and AFP.

These coalition of CSO’s in Central Mindanao was organized on January 10, 2013 together with its partners, The Asia Foundation, PPCRV, COMELEC, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Education, Regional Reconciliation & Unification Commission (RRUC), People’s Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation, Inc. (P-CART), Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Cotabato City Chapter.

The main objectives of MPA are: a. Promotion and advocacy for Clean, Honest, Accountable, Meaningful and Peaceful (CHAMP) and SAFE 2013 in the communities; b. Monitor and mitigate cases of election-related violence and incidence in the Province of Maguindanao in the May 13, 2013 Midterm Elections and beyond, and c. Sustain and strengthen linkages, cooperation and collaboration among Security Sectors, LGUs, line agencies, NGOs, and community members for electoral reforms.

The following are the MPA member-organizations:

1.    Alliance of Bangsamoro for Peace & Sustainable Dev’t. (ABPSD)

2.    Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace (BCJP)

3.    Bangsamoro Network Dev’t, Inc. (NETDEV)

4.    Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum (BWSF)

5.    Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms (C-CARE)

6.    Cotabato Center for Peace & Dev’t. Initiatives, Inc. (CCPDI)

7.    Dev’t. Youth Movement Assembly in Mindanao, Inc. (DYMAMIN)

8.    Kabalikat Civic Communicators Assn. (KABALIKAT CIVICOM)

9.    Kaumpiya sa Mindanao, Inc. (KASAMA)

10. Liguasan Youth Association for Sustainable Dev’t, Inc. (LIPAD)

11. Local Initiative for Peace & Dev’t. in Mindanao, Inc. (LIPAD)

12. Mindanao Action for Peace & Development Initiatives (MAPAD)

13. Moro Women Development & Cultural Center, Inc. (MWDECC)

14. Neo-Iranun Multi-Sectoral Association, Inc. (NIMSA)

15. Pagungayan Ame so mga Kangudan Antapan ko kamapiyaan ago kad Tatabanga (PAKAT)

16. Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)

17. Sustainable Educ. & Enterprise Dev’t. Foundation, Inc. (SEED)

18. Tabang Ako Siyap ko Bangsa Iranun saya ko Kalilintad ago Kapamagayon, Inc. (TASBIKKA)

19. United Professional Development Initiatives, Inc. (UPDI)

20. United Youth for Peace &  Dev’t, Inc. (UNYPAD)

21. UNYPHIL – Women

22. Minsupala Islamic Youth Movement (MIYM)

The MPA Officers are: Mr. Samsodin  Amella, Coordinator; Mr. Muslemin Abas, Co-Coordinator; Secretary—Mr. Joel Cadeliña; Treasurer—Mr. Anwar Z. Saluwang; Auditor—Mr. Tomaritib Tanggote; Information Officer—Mr. Bobby Taguntong and Mr. Mahdi N. Salik; and Project Officer Ms. Baina T. Samayatin.