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Elected Cotabato City mayor not missing, to assume office on June 30, vows party-mate

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Cotabato City Mayor-elect Mohammad Bruce Matabalao (center). Photo from Matabalao’s Facebook page

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/June 29) – A reelected councilor of Cotabato City on Wednesday pointed out that a new city administration will “definitely” assume on Thursday, June 30, contrary to general speculations that mayor-elect lawyer Bruce Matabalao has gone hiding.

Many residents observed that the city mayor-elect has been missing and cannot be contacted about his plans after June 30, which left some residents to worry.

“No truth to all that. Those are mere speculations,” remarked city councilor Florante Formento, who topped the polls for city councilor and a party-mate of the mayor-elect under the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-led United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP).

Many of Matabalao’s known supporters also appear mum on whether there will be any formal program when the former radio journalist assumes as new Cotabato City mayor noontime of June 30 when terms of incumbent officials end.

Matabalao won with 29,818 votes over Unity team-aligned incumbent city mayor lawyer Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, who garnered 22,939 votes in a tense-filled conduct of the May 9 elections in the city. Matabalao’s running mate Butch Abu and seven councilors in the UBJP also won.

In a phone interview, Formento said Matabalao is presently in an undisclosed place where he could safely plan about what he intends to do when he already begins to assume office.

“Marami kasi naghahanap sa kanya (There are so many looking for him) and he does not want to commit for now on personal favors,” the city councilor said.

Formento, however, admitted he also has no idea on whether there will be any formal program on June 30.

He said however that Matabalao already confirmed his attendance to the July 5 inaugural session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod where the new mayor is expected to deliver his inaugural address.

On Tuesday evening, June 28, Matabalao ended his long silence and took to social media in taking a swipe at his political detractors.

He mentioned nothing about what his plans are for June 30 on whether there will be any inauguration activity even as talks are rife about a plan by supporters of incumbent officials to barricade city hall and prevent new officials from assuming their respective offices.

“I opted to remain silent and have not been reacting to all your threats and deceitful posts that aim to mislead our people but do not ever think that I am sleeping and will just let everything go. Your non-sense has got to stop!” the mayor-elect stated on his Facebook account.

Matabalao hinted that he will soon reveal the truth about his political rivals: “Naiintindihan ko ang takot nyo na mapalitan sa pwesto dahil alam ninyo ang mga pinaggagawa ninyo na hindi ko na iisa-isahin dito pero lalabas at malalaman ng taong-bayan sa napakalapit ng panahon.”

Sayadi’s camp has petitioned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to nullify poll results in 36 clustered precincts and sought a recount in 17 clustered precincts in the city. They also sought an order by Comelec for the retrieval and sealing of the ballot boxes in these precincts.

Formento and six other winning UBJP councilors argued that “it will just be a waste of time, money and effort” when all the poll body must do is to determine if there is basis in fact and in law to annul the election results.

They doubt on whether the minutes of voting in each of the clustered precincts bear protests and challenges that can help establish grounds for a recount or to nullify elections results in the 53 precincts.

A hearing on the said petition has been scheduled by the Comelec on July 6 in Manila. (Rommel G. Rebollido / MindaNews)

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