Posts Tagged ‘Alex Tomawis’

 

In my previous article, I vowed to present detailed arguments to prove my thesis that the assassination of Vice Mayor Alexander Tomawis, who previously served as Mayor of the Municipality of Barira for three terms, was also the end of the processes of democratization in the troubled province of Maguindanao.

But as I subject the life of Alex Tomawis to deeper retrospection, it dawned on me that to measure his social significance using as a benchmark the stalled “processes of democratization” in the Municipality of Barira could logically result to the trivialization of his achievement and his dream for the Iranuns, and rest of Mindanao.

The cause that Alex Tomawis gallantly fought for his constituencies, during his life time, pierces deep into the core of the problem that besets the Bangsamoro Homeland for so many decades.

His was a battle to end the isolationist character of local governance in Maguindanao and the rest of the Island, with the Municipality of Barira and the two other municipalities comprising the Iranun Development Council (IDC) as venues of apprenticeship for democratic Moro governance.

Alex Tomawis believed then that, unless a type of governance that totally deprives the Moro masses any access to the processes of decision-making and secludes them wholly from any mechanism that provides opportunities for the people’s meaningful exercise of economic power, lasting peace in Maguindanao and the rest of the Island can never be attained.

His was a new type of a social revolution that intends to transfer political and economic power into the base of society by empowering the masses to optimize the untapped power of their rationality to take hold of their resources, decide for the processes of their becoming, and to freely chart their own destiny.

This is not as simple as we think it is, in the first blush. I know that Alex had realized this as he harped for his last breath after his fragile body was riddled with bullets. For the well-entrenched political warlords in Maguindanao, his is a revolutionary proposition for it intends to totally dismantle a social system and traditional practices that afford them unbridled political and economic power and benefits.

Thus, for the Moro Elite of Maguindanao, a person who works to transform this status quo is flirting with death. Alex Tomawis did, and so, as destined for one who bravely treads into this dangerous ground, is now “resting” in his grave, with his unfulfilled dream and unfinished revolution.

Tom Villarin, an Akbayan nominee who authored many occasional papers for Mindanao and who had long been in the forefront of the struggle for peace and development in this troubled Island, is mourning the untimely death of Vice Mayor Tomawis the way Mark Anthony did to Caesar. This is for a reason.

Above all else, Tom knows every facet of Alex Tomawis’ political exploits and perfectly appreciates every bit of his dream for his people. Tom knows how the fire burns in the heart of Alex Tomawis every time the fires of unrest visit the homeland of the Iranuns. His dream for his people is too noble to be forgotten.

I accompany Tom in his drive to immortalize the dreams of Alex Tomawis, so his people may be able to pick up the torch where he left it and to continue with his difficult journey … and so that he may not die in vain.

Like Tom, I was also privileged to be with this man, Alex, as he reels towards a dream of attaining development and meaningful peace in the municipality of Barira and its the adjoining localities, which constantly serve as a theater of war in the mainland of Mindanao. It was by working with Alex that I came to fully know the character of a man who would soon become a hero for the Iranuns.

I did not have the opportunity to see him beginning in the middle part of 2004 when I was forced by circumstances to voluntarily leave Akbayan and its development networks to undergo the painful processes of self-rectification and reinvention.

Although, I confess that there were times when I was tempted to text him for help when I was soaked in crippling poverty, the kind that almost shattered my family and snatched away my sanity. But, after I weighed things judiciously, I held myself against the temptation to preserve whatever “good impression” he had then on me.

Now that I begin to celebrate my success, and my feat, in preserving the unity of my family amid the cascading misfortunes, Alex Tomawis ended his story. It is also a pity that, at the very same time when I am about to rise from the rubbles and restore my social significance and my dream, he perished.

I happened to head a team of development planners which supervised a six-day practicum for the trainees in participatory development planning in the Municipality of Barira sometime in 2003. One night, while we were in a deep sleep, a loud explosion thundered. Still in half-sleep and trembling furiously, I quickly moved to bury my head on the cemented corner of the municipality (I am a born coward). A few seconds after that, Alex came to me laughing. Then, in a very assuring voice, he told me: “Ben, this is my place. We are safe here.” Embarrassed, I slept my whole night out, with his words serving as my comforting mantle.

Alex was right in embracing a thought that he was safe in the place of his birth and in the bosom of his people. However, he failed to perceive that he could be unsafe in a “safer” place, but away from the people for whose welfare and interest he eventually offered his life.

Previously, I made a solemn vow not to stop writing about Alex Tomawis until justice is served to him, to his family and to his people. But today I pledge to continue writing about this great man for a greater purpose, that is, to immortalize his deeds and his dreams for the glory of successor-generations.

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As a former political council member of Akbayan and a governance consultant of various governance and development centers operating in Mindanao, I was privileged to work with the late Alex Tomawis –who was then the Mayor of the Municipality of Barira in Maguindanao – for the democratization of the local governance in three Maguindanao municipalities comprising the Iranun Development Council (IDC), the municipalities of Barira, Buldon and Matanog.

I was with Alex Tomawis when he started to reinvent the system of local governance in that portion of Maguindanao which served for many decades as a host to Camp Abubakar, once the main fortress of the Moro armed struggle under the MILF. His bold attempt at democratization of local governance in the area was considered as a radical democratic breakthrough in a province embroidered in the dictatorship of local tyrants, crippled by fear and poverty, and soaked in the blood of the hapless and the innocent.

In the next issue, I will put into details why the untimely passing of Alex Tomawis also spells death to the processes of democratization in Maguindanao. As a personal witness to his democratic governance experiment, I vow not to leave the issue of the death of Alex Tomawis until I see the protective and coercive apparatus of the state strongly moving in search for his justice, for the justice of his family and for the justice of his people who had found hope in him.

Meantime, I will pave the way for the portion of the article posted by Tom Villarin, an Akbayan nominee, in the Akbayan forum. This article details, among others, the circumstances surrounding the death of Alex Tomawis and gives us certain perspective as to the possible motives for his assassination.

Here is the portion of Tom Villarin’s article:

”Alexander Tomawis, 38, Barira, Maguindanao vice-mayor and Akbayan supporter since 2001 was shot dead around 10AM Sunday morning, November 29, 2010 after leaving his apartment house in Bajada, Davao city by two teenage gunmen after allegedly asking him to sign some documents. The gunmen escaped on motorcycles. He was rushed to the Davao Doctors Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.  Mayor Alex Tomawis is not known to walk around with dozens of armed bodyguards unlike other Maguindanao politicians.

“A few hours before his death, we met in a coffee shop to discuss the cases he filed against Col Ernesto R. Aradanas (batch ’79), commander of the 603rd Brigade based in Barira in the office of the Ombudsman, provincial prosecutor and the Comelec. During the recent barangay elections, the two had a heated argument as the military was intervening in the local elections. Cases of illegal detention and election offenses under the Omnibus Election Code was filed by him against Col. Ernesto R. Aradanas last November 5, 2010. Mayor Tomawis was in Davao to file with the Ombudsman last  November 26 cases of grave misconduct and grave abuse of authority versus Col. Aradanas, Major Mahainien Sangki, and 1st Lt. Manago Macalintangui, all officers from the 603rd Brigade.

“Mayor Alex is a good friend who never failed to support Akbayan.  While many will disagree with the ways he ran his municipality, he was an “action man” who brought back to life Barira (command and control HQ of the MILF) after the 2000 all-out war by Estrada.  He’s also the mayor instrumental in creating the Iranun Development Council, an inter-LGU alliance composed of Buldon, Barira and Matanog. His ambitious ways of making the ethnic group of Iranons become a potent political block in Maguindanao created many enemies against him.  His municipality became a recipient of some P380-M worth of development projects in 2001-2004 and partnered with the NAPC, CIDSS-KALAHI and other national government agencies as well as Gawad-Kalinga which constructed some 500 core houses in Tugaig, Barira. During my NAPC stint as NGO sectoral council member, I asked him to be resource speaker in ASEAN-NAPC forums in Jakarta and Singapore which he did well.

“While perceived to be close to Andal Ampatuan Sr., Mayor Alex had to resort to such an alliance with the Ampatuans to have leverage against the other political warlords in his area.  It is well known that Mayor Tocao Mastura of Sultan Kudarat municipality is a political nemesis of his. Mayor Mastura ran unsuccessfully as governor of the defunct Shariff Kabunsuan province in 2007.  Tomawis allied with the Sinsuats then. After the Maguindanao massacre, Mayor Alex distanced himself from the Ampatuans and organized nine municipal mayoral slate under Aksyon Demokratiko that delivered the votes for President Noy Aquino and Mar Roxas. He already has plans for 2013 as he has consolidated his political base consisting of Buldon (Mayor Fatima Tomawis, his wife), Matanog (Mayor Nasser Imam, a close ally who was also ambushed in the past but survived), Barira (his mother is the mayor), Parang (Mayor Ibrahim Ibay, a very close ally), Datu Blah Sinsuat (Mayor Toto Sinsuat, his brother-in-law married to his sister), South Upi, and Northern Kabuntalan.  He reportedly had several talks with Gov. Toto Mangudadatu of Maguindanao province before his death.”

We join Akbayan, and the rest, in calling the government of P-Noy to leave no stone unturned in its drive to put into the gallows the brains behind the assassination of Alex Tomawis.