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12 years after the Ampatuan Massacre, Ampatuans still in power in Maguindanao 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /15 May) –  Twelve and a half years after the massacre of 58 persons in Maguindanao and 29 months after the court found the Ampatuan brothers guilty beyond reasonable doubt and sentenced them to imprisonment of up to 40 years, the Ampatuans are still in power. 

Although its political clout is no longer as dominant as it was before the massacre, at least 39 members of the Ampatuan clan, including the youngest son of Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and Bai Laila Uy, and their grandchildren, vied for election or reelection in seven of Maguindanao’s 36 towns, with one member of the clan running for Governor of Maguindanao, records from the Commission on Elections show. 

Of the 39 candidates surnamed Ampatuan, 29 won in the May 9 polls: six town mayors — in Datu Hofer Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Mamasapano, Rajah Buayan, Shariff Aguak and Shariff Saydona Mustapha or what is collectively referred to by them as “Ampatuan Empire,” five vice mayors and 18 councilors. 

Except for Rajah Buayan, the five elected vice mayors are running mates of the “Ampatuan Empire” mayors who ran under the Nacionalista Party. The Rajah Buayan mayor ran under the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas. 

The “Ampatuan Empire” accounts for 89,860 votes out of the total 818,790 votes in Maguindanao province. 

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Leaders and representatives from the towns comprising what they refer to as “Ampatuan Empire” meet in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on 8 May 2022. The “empire” comprises Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Datu Unsay , Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Rajah Buayan, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak. Photo courtesy of the FB page of Shariff Aguak Municipality

The patriarch, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., long-time mayor of Shariff Aguak town and three-term governor of Maguindanao, passed away in July 2015, four years before the court handed down the verdict on 57 counts of murder, 31 of them media workers.  The 58th victim and 32nd media worker, photojournalist Reynaldo Momay of Midland Review in Tacurong City,  was not counted by the court because “whether Momay died or was missing” after November 23, 2009 “could not be ascertained as no evidence of his actual death was adduced.”

Fifty-eight persons were killed, 32 of them from the media, on November 23, 2009 when an estimated hundred armed men led by then Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., stopped a convoy led by Genalyn, wife of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangdudadatu, en route to the next town of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, to file his certificate of candidacy for Governor.

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Children of the media victims in the infamous Ampatuan massacre in 2009 continue to cry for justice as they visit the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on 17 November 2019. A month later, Andal Ampatuan Jr. (L), mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao and ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan (R) were convicted while Sajid (C) was acquitted. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

The patriarch, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., long-time mayor of Shariff Aguak town and three-term governor of Maguindanao, passed away in July 2015, four years before the court handed down the verdict on 57 counts of murder, 31 of them media workers.  The 58th victim and 32nd media worker, photojournalist Reynaldo Momay of Midland Review in Tacurong City,  was not counted by the court because “whether Momay died or was missing” after November 23, 2009 “could not be ascertained as no evidence of his actual death was adduced.”

Fifty-eight persons were killed, 32 of them from the media, on November 23, 2009 when an estimated hundred armed men led by then Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., stopped a convoy led by Genalyn, wife of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangdudadatu, en route to the next town of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, to file his certificate of candidacy for Governor.

Ampatuan, Jr., was going to run for Governor and like his father in 2007, wanted to run unopposed.

It was the worst election-related violent incident in the history of the country and the single deadliest attack in the world against journalists.

Grandchildren 

The Ampatuan patriarch’s  sons with his first wife Bai Laila Uy — Andal Jr.; Zaldy, then Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Anwar, then mayor of Shariff Aguak town, and his sons Anwar Jr. and Anwar Sajid – were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt while the patriarch’s youngest son, Sajid,  and son-in-law Akmad Sr., were acquitted due to reasonable doubt.  Sajid was released on bail in early 2015 after paying 11.6 million pesos at 200,000 for every count of murder. 

Zaldy’s wife, Bongbong Midtimbang Ampatuan, was reelected as mayor of  Datu Hoffer Ampatuan while the couple’s children – Prince Sufri Norabbie and Bai Nor Aila Kristina Ampatuan-Samama were elected Vice Mayor and Councilor.  All three ran under the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Ampatuan-Samama is now the 1st councilor while her brother Prince Sufri is taking over the vice mayoralty seat she is presently occupying. 

Before he became ARMM Governor in 2005, Zaldy was mayor of Shariff Aguak town.  Datu Hoffer Ampatuan town was carved out from nine barangays in Shariff Aguak and two in Datu Unsay town in July 2009. 

The patriarch, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.,  was the long-time mayor of Shariff Aguak before he ran for governor of Maguindanao in 2001. 

By June 30, 2022,  Bongbong and son Prince Sufri will take their oath of office as mayor and vice mayor of Datu Hoffer town, as will four councilors. 

The Ampatuans in Datu Hoffer town will be the the majority in the eight-member council, occupying four of eight council seats: Ampatuan-Samama (1st), Pandag Salibo Ampatuan (3rd), Mohammad Akas Ampatuan (4th), and Norodin Lakman Ampatuan (7th). The Vice Mayor, also an Ampatuan, is the presiding officer of the municipal council making the council a majority of Ampatuans, 5-4. 

Two other Ampatuans didn’t make it to the town council. 

Five other candidates surnamed Ampatuan are running for councilor: Mohammad Alhamza Sinsuat Ampatuan (Ind), Montaher Zangkala Ampatuan (Ind).

Datu Unsay

In Datu Unsay town, Andal Jr.’s children with his first wife Reshal Santiago dominate the political landscape. 

Datu Andal V was elected mayor, his sister Bai Alicia Nicole was elected Vice Mayor and another sister Bai Almirah Alyannah topped the municipal council race. 

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Datu Andal “Datu Aguak” Santiago Ampatuan V takes his oath of office before Senator Nancy Binay. Photo courtesy of Jessie Ali

Datu Andal V is not a newbie mayor. He topped the council race in 2019 but assumed as mayor in late July 2019 after the elected mayor, Fuentes Dukay and  his father Wanay Dukay,  the elected vice mayor, resigned allegedly for “lack of capacity to govern.”  

Highly reliable sources told MindaNews that the Dukays were mere place holders until Datu Andal V Ampatuan would reach the age of 21, the minimum age requirement for town mayor. 

Datu Andal was still 20 during the May 13, 2019 elections. He took his oath as mayor before Senator Nancy Binay on July 23, 2019 at age 21. 

Andal’s wife Reshal Santiago succeeded him as mayor in 2010. She passed away in July 2018. 

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Son and father tandem in Shariff Saydona Mustapha.

In Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, the family of Sajid Ampatuan and Zandria Sinsuat, continues to dominate the political arena there. Their son Sajid Andre is running for mayor  while Sajid is running for Vice Mayor. Another son, Datu Andal Sajid VI, and daughter Zandria are running for councilor. 

Two other Ampatuans are running for councilor: Datu Alnur Sakal Ampatuan and Maricris Dumpao Ampatuan  

All  of them ran under NP. 

Mamasapano

In Mamasapano town, the children of Rebecca and Akmad Ampatuan, Sr.  occupy the top posts. Their son Akmad Jr. (NP) was reelected mayor;  another son, Tahrodin Benzar (NP), was reelected Vice Mayor while daughters Bai Lady Insheera Manar and Sharmaine Reham ran for Councilor as independent candidates.

Bai Lady Insheera was initially listed as one of 18 candidates of Councilor in Mamasapano but her name was no longer there in the revised list of 17. 

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A campaign poster of Bai Reham Ampatuan Ampatuan who topped the council race in the May 9 elections.

Sharmaine Reham won as 1st councilor, Mahir as 2nd and Mohammad Nor as 3rd

Two other Ampatuans are ran for councilor also as independents:  Mahir Masukat Ampatuan and Mohamad Nor Abdilla. 

Rajah Buayan, Shariff Aguak 

In Rajah Buayan town,  Mayor Yacob Lumenda Ampatuan,  husband of Aloha who is a daughter of Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr.,   sought reelection under the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas and won against his mother, Bai Puti Lumenda Ampatuan (Lakas-CMD), Narris Uto Ampatuan (Ind) and Bai Maruja Ampatuan Mastura (NP).

Jamshid Ampatuan Ampatuan placed second in the municipal council race. 

In Shariff Aguak town, Akmad Baganian Ampatuan (NP) was elected mayor and son Marop Batabol Ampatuan as vice mayor. Their siblings Mohamad Akmad Batabol Ampatuan, Moharif Batabol Ampatuan and Ritchie Baganian Ampatuan placed 1st, 3rd and 5th in the eight-member municipal council. 

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The Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBOC) proclaims on Datu Akmad Ampatuan as mayor of Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao. Photo courtesy of the FB page of Shariff Aguak Municipality

Two other Ampatuans were also elected: 6th placer Alibai Sakal Ampatuan (NP) and 8th placer Rasul Unson Ampatuan (NP). 

The Ampatuans again dominate the eight-member council with five Ampatuans as councilor plus an Ampatuan Vice Mayor as Presiding Officer. 

In Talitay town, Datu Mantato Sinsuat Ampatuan, Jr. ran for Mayor under the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) while Bai Anesa Sinsuat Ampatuan is ran for Vice Mayor (NP). They lost to Sidik Amiril (KBL) and Fahad Midtimbang of the UBJP, respectively. 

A cousin of the patriarch, Datu Puti Mamasapano Ampatuan, also known as Hadji Yasser, was among six candidates for Governor of Maguindanao. He is a former provincial board member and ran under Abag Promdi. He landed third with 1,757 votes against Bai Mariam Sangki Mangudadatu’s 327,416 and Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s 209,229. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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