(“Here are Pinoy grammar booboos,” a UP professor-friend emailed. “Weave in an election context – and laugh. Factor in the crooks– and cry.” Here’s his letter. Chuckle and weep – JLM)

"The sky's the langit,” gushed the rally emcee. As candidates clambered on stage, he added: “"Well, well, well. Look do we have here! Let's give them a big hand of applause."

Did Joseph Estrada say his plunder conviction was "anulled and void?” I'm only human nature. So, just burn the bridge when we get there.” OK?

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

OK, grunt 68 Ampatuans. They’re among 879 candidates in Maguindanao where 374 posts are up for grabs, Mindanews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas reports.

Andal Sr. and 196 others are charged with multiple murder. Datu Unsay remains in the NBI clink for the Ampatuan town massacre trial.

They now don't take chances. From intertwined family branches, they’re fielding two candidates, for every post. The Ampatuan-Uy branch, for example, deployed candidates against those from the Ampatuan-Abutazil stem.

In Rajah Buayan town, Yacob “Datu Jack” Lumenda Ampatuan campaigns against his brother: Kuzabari. “The uncertainty pervading during our meeting, before the deadline for filing for candidacy, prompted u to field two candidates, just in case.”

Manguindanao’s population grow by 5.4 percent. This is double the national growth rate of 2.04 percent. It outpaced Metro Cebu, and 79 provinces. Exclude Dinagat. The Supreme Court just struck this islet from the rolls.

In all regions, population growth is easing. But not in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Impoverished economically stagnant ARRM grew, by 3.7 percent, if the seven-year late census is right. None of 177 countries, tracked by UN Development Report 2009, resembles this bloating.

“Is this statistically possible?" asked Asian Development Bank senior statistician Dalisay Maligalig at the Philippine Population Association meeting. Of course not.

“But there are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” one reads in Hamlet. Like AK15 rifles unearthed in Ampatuan gardens. Rigged elections grow from the barrel of a gun, to paraphrase Mao Ze Dong.

Are you sure ka na ba?" the dazed observer.is apt to ask. Except for those aged 10, the largest age group in Maguindanao is 18, reports Joel Landingin of Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. On turning 18, one is qualified to vote.

Look at the “youth surge” chart, painstakingly crafted by demographers from: UP, Xavier to San Carlos University. The third cluster of those aged 30 to 59---with a huge glob of 18 year olds---is largest in Maguindanao.

Senators Benigno Aquino and Manuel Villar lead today’s pack of 10 presidentiables. They're tied at 37 to 35 percent. Each was preferred by just over a-third of total voters interviewed, political scientist Jose V. Abueva points out.

As in the 1992, 1998, and 2004 elections, the next President will sweep into Malacanang by a plurality of the votes, not a majority. The winner will be the one who adds to actual votes he secured, plus those he corralled from other losing candidates. That includes Estrada’s 13 percent, if he doesn’t quit.

Will 18-year old spook voters of Maguindanao, and other ARRM provinces, tip the scales? They could, if a flawed census and padded registration lists are not exorcised before May 10.

Our "answers have been prayered,” an Ampatuan partisan explained. The May election could see Maguindanao “as brand as new.” Chuckle or weep.

(juanlmercado@gmail.com)