COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Peace activists on Thursday cautioned political leaders in Central Mindanao against mudslinging during campaign sorties to prevent the outbreak of hostilities that could jeopardize the Mindanao peace process.
The director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado Jr., said rival politicians should help preserve the peace in the area and in the provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by focusing instead on important issues such as good governance, social welfare, human security, and the Mindanao peace efforts , instead of holding “fiery, volatile and noisy” campaign sorties.
Mercado said “personal attacks and black propaganda” cause tension that could affect the security in areas particularly where clan wars involve political families.
However, Mercado, who has authored a number of articles and books about Mindanao and Muslims in Mindanao, said he believes that local officials aspiring for various elective posts in the May 2013 polls, will abide by the Omnibus Election Code.
However, Mercado said the Commission on Elections, the Philippine National Police , and the Armed Forces should remain vigilant and monitor the situation in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, the provincial chapter of the Liberal Party in Maguindanao, chaired by re-electionist Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, said in an emailed statement Thursday that party members will refrain from “dirty campaign maneuvers”.
“Certainly, no mudslinging or personal attacks will come from us,” Mangudadatu said.
Mangudadatu said members of the Liberal Party in Maguindanao have sworn to abide by the rules of Comelec to ensure peaceful and honest elections.
He said they will also adhere to the Islamic context of political campaigns, which calls for dialogues and consensus-building among local communities, based on the principles of fraternalism and political cooperation, as stated in the Qur’an.
The lone rival of Mangudadatu, Hadji Tucao Mastura, mayor of Sultan Kudarat town, has cited “spiritual awakening” as his platform to pursue good governance and peace for the province. Mastura is running under the United Nationalist Alliance-Partido ng Demokratiking Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.
Ustadz Esmael Ebrahim, a commissioner in the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, has urged politicians to heed "peaceful politics" as espoused by Islam.
“Cheating during electoral exercises, intimidating voters, or buying of votes are practices that are `haram,’ or forbidden, [and these practices are ]just as forbidden as eating pork, or drinking liquor,” Ebrahim said.
Ebrahim also said Muslim politicians should “talk with sense” and discuss political issues with voters in the spirit of amity and goodwill.
“They should also lead good examples by not using sorties to verbally attack rivals,” he said. In Islam, religion and politics are one, according to Ebrahim.
“Dirty politics, therefore, is not the Islamic kind of politics,” he said.
Mangudadatu said residents of Maguindanao have grown tired of seeing the “ugly face” of traditional politics in the province in past decades. He said one of their campaign slogans is “ayaw sa away” to show their support to the Comelec's campaign for safe and fair elections in May.
“We in the Liberal Party will never allow a return to such situation. There is peace now in Maguindanao, there is solidarity among people and the peace process is gaining momentum. No politician, in his proper frame of mind, will do something bad to create trouble in the province in this point in time,” Mangudadatu said.