Tag archive for "Ampatuan"


Current Affairs


No Comments 20 January 2011

On November 23, 2009, 58 people were murdered by a local warlord from Maguindanao in the worst case of election violence in Philippine history. A year later, hope still flickers for the families of the victims, but the path to justice has been unbearably slow. VIEW DOCUMENTARY


Current Affairs


No Comments 22 November 2010

Sharif Aguak, Philippines (AFP) – Leaders of a Muslim clan accused of carrying out the Philippines’ worst political massacre remain a major security threat in their home province even from behind bars, locals say.

Residents in the southern province of Maguindanao still talk about the Ampatuan family in hushed voices, because saying anything bad about the clan could bring bloody reprisals from loyal militiamen who have eluded arrest.

“Their forces are still very much around. You may not see the family’s leaders anymore, but you can still feel their presence,” said Jun Dadula, a long-time government employee, whose name was changed to protect his identity.

Dadula has lived all his life literally under the shadows of the Ampatuans — his family’s modest bungalow is not far from the mansions owned by Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons in Shariff Aguak, the provincial capital.

He described Ampatuan Sr. as a benevolent godfather to those who were loyal to him, but a vengeful and violent man to those who went against his will.

“No one dares to go against them,” he said as a column of military tanks and armored personnel carriers patrolled the main highway amid heightened tensions just ahead of the first anniversary of the massacre on Nov. 23.

Clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., his son and namesake, and four other relatives are among 196 people charged with murder for the November 23 massacre of the 57 people — 32 of whom were journalists.

They are being held in a detention center a long flight away from Maguindanao, in Manila, while awaiting trial — a process that could take years — yet have access to mobile phones and other forms of communication.

Last year’s murders were meant to stop a politician from a rival family, Esmael Mangudadatu, from contesting the governorship of the province.

Mangudadatu eventually won the post in May national elections after the Ampatuans lost their political support from then president Gloria Arroyo amid the fallout from the massacre.

But Mangudadatu, whose wife was among last year’s victims, said many of the clan’s loyal armed followers continued to elude a police manhunt by hiding in Maguindanao’s remote hilly areas.

He blamed them for the murders of at least five potential witnesses, including a former Ampatuan militiaman gunned down in July whose death has been widely reported.

“They remain very dangerous and can receive instructions any time (from the Ampatuan leaders) through mobile phones,” Mangudadatu told Agence France-Presse.

Illustrating the security threat, Mangudadatu has chosen not to set up his governors’ base in Shariff Aguak, preferring a town with fewer Ampatuan links, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) away.

He will travel on Nov. 23 to the massacre site on the outskirts of Shariff Aguak, along with other relatives of the murdered people, for a one-year anniversary commemoration service.

However they will only go protected with heavy military security.

Ampatuan Sr. rose to prominence in the 1970s as a leader of a paramilitary group before entering politics as a mayor in Maguindanao province.

He later became provincial governor, and consolidated power and wealth by allegedly taking over vast tracts of land by force and by eliminating other families that were seen as a threat, according to Human Rights Watch.

The family’s power grew even stronger under the patronage of Arroyo, who used the Ampatuans and their militia of up to 5,000 men as a proxy force against Muslim rebels who have waged a decades-long insurgency in the southern Philippines.

Human Rights Watch said in a report that the Ampatuans remained in control in some parts of Maguindanao even after a security crackdown following last year’s massacre that led to the clan’s leaders being arrested.

It noted that eight of the 34 mayors who won in the May 2010 elections were Ampatuan relatives.

The continued violence has left people like Bai Nena Sahrik with little hope of seeing her 10-month-old granddaughter grow up in a place where she can play without fear of being abducted or harmed.

“We are still very, very afraid,” said Sahrik, as she lined up to receive a cash dole-out at a dilapidated municipal building in a town named after the Ampatuans.

“Everyday, we are reminded of them,” she said, pointing to a fading campaign picture on a wall showing Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the clan leaders in jail awaiting trial. (Agence France-Presse)

PHOTO: Principal accused Andal Ampatuan Jr.




No Comments 09 May 2010

By Sheila Coronel, for CNN

(CNN) — The irony is often lost on Filipinos. How can the country that gave the world not one, but two, peaceful “people power” uprisings that ousted corrupt regimes have such violent elections?

On Monday, May 11, more than 50 million Filipinos will have the chance to elect a new president, a new Congress and a roster of local officials. So far the campaign has exacted a deadly toll: Including the Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 people in November, some 100 people have been reported killed in election-related violence, according to news and police reports.

This past week has been especially bloody. Last Monday, armed men fired at two trucks carrying 200 campaigners of a mayoral candidate in Zamboanga del Sur in the southern part of the country. One man was killed, and 32 others injured. On Tuesday, a lone gunman approached a candidate for councilor and shot him several times at close range, as the candidate was shaking hands with voters in a gymnasium in the central Philippine city of Cebu. He died a few hours later.

These incidents merited only a few paragraphs in Manila’s free-wheeling newspapers. Violence is part of the fabric of Philippine elections, and a murder or two seldom gets headline treatment.

Most of the violence is rooted in local political rivalries. Contests for public office at the town and provincial levels are fought so fiercely because the spoils of public office are so rich. Those seeking national office can bank on popularity, celebrity and media exposure in order to win. At the local levels, the calculus is far cruder.

Last November, the private army of a powerful local clan in Maguindanao province attacked a convoy of vehicles on a provincial highway, killing 57 people, 30 of them journalists. The massacre was intended to prevent the clan’s rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, from filing his candidacy. It was so cold-blooded and so gruesome that it shocked even those who had become inured to the violence of politics and daily life in the Philippines.

The Ampatuan family, which has been accused of masterminding the massacre, has dominated local elective positions in Maguindanao for years and become rich in the process. In recent months, investigative journalists have had a field day documenting the family’s 28 mansions, their fleet of luxury vehicles and private arsenal of high-powered firearms.

“The Ampatuans do not have plantations. They do not own factories,” said Albert Alejo, a Jesuit anthropologist, at a forum of religious leaders in Mindanao. “Bullets are not harvested from crops. Where did they get these from?”

Over the years, the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has showered billions of pesos to fund development in Maguindanao, one of the country’s poorest provinces. In exchange, the Ampatuans have delivered votes for the president and her party. But the province has little to show for that money: It has only 18 government doctors for over a million people and one of the lowest literacy rates in the country.

Like many political families elsewhere in the Philippines, the clan has preserved its dominance through a combination of patronage, intimidation and links to the presidential palace. Officials say that the Ampatuans kept a 2,000-strong private army, which included the over 100 men who are now facing murder charges for last year’s massacre.

Six Ampatuans are in prison for their alleged complicity in that massacre. Despite this, at least 23 family members are reported to be running for local office in Monday’s elections. The family patriarch Andal Sr., currently jailed for multiple murder, is seeking the vice-governorship of the province, running against his own daughter.

The Ampatuans are an extreme example – most political families in the country do not wield such hegemonic or terrifying power. But they do show how the dynastic nature of Philippine politics has reached such absurd heights – or depths. The leading presidential candidate, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, belongs to a family that has held public office for four generations. His mother, the late Corazon Aquino, was the country’s first female president. And those leading in the senatorial races — including Ferdinand Marcos. Jr., son of the former Philippine dictator — are part of the country’s entrenched political clans.

The dominance of families demonstrates the dysfunctions of Philippine democracy. Yet, lively debate on democracy and a high level of engagement in electoral politics exist in many places, especially the big cities and mass media. Voter turnout has traditionally been at 80 to 85 percent, higher than in more mature democracies.

Still, guns rule in places like the far-flung villages of Maguindanao. That sad reality will continue as long as families like the Ampatuans are not held to account. With the public outrage at the massacre still fresh, this election is a good time to start.

Editor’s note: Sheila Coronel is the director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University. She is a co-founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Committee to Protect Journalists board member and author and editor of more than a dozen books. She is a 2003 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.


Current Affairs


No Comments 09 February 2010

By Carolyn O. Arguillas


Davao City – Only two of the 12 prominent Ampatuans implicated in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao are not running for any posts in this year’s elections: Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr., and ARMM governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan. Just as well, their wives and a daughter are running, records of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) show.

Of the 12 Ampatuan clan members implicated as perpetrators or conspirators in the massacre of at least 58 persons (32 of them from the media), six are now in government custody; six others have yet to be arrested.

Detained at the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila is Ampatuan Jr.; father Datu Andal S. Ampatuan Sr., is confined in a military hospital in Davao City;  and brothers Zaldy, Anwar and Sajid,  and brother-in-law Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan, Sr., are detained at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in General Santos City.

At present, only Ampatuan Jr. is detained for multiple murder. Ampatuan Sr. and the clan members in General Santos City are detained for rebellion.

Ampatuan Jr’s dream of becoming governor of Maguindanao ended on November 23 but his wife, Reshal Santiago, is running for mayor of Datu Unsay.

Ampatuan Sr., then OIC governor of Maguindanao, is running for vice governor of Maguindanao against three opponents, including his daughter, Shaydee Ampatuan-Abutazil.

Zaldy’s wife, Bai Johaira or Bongbong Midtimbang is running for mayor of Datu Hoffer town, while eldest daughter Bai Norailla Kristina, is running for councilor. Both mother and daughter are assured of victory. They are running unopposed.

Anwar Sr., then mayor of Shariff Aguak, is running for vice mayor, while wife Zahara Upam is running for mayor. Three of their children are running for councilor of Shariff Aguak: Anhara, Anwar  Jr. (also known as Datu Ipi)  and Rowella. Another child, Manny Upam Ampatuan, is running for councilor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

Sajid, OIC Governor from January to shortly before the massacre when Ampatuan Sr. took over, is running for provincial board member; his wife Zandria is running for mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha.

Akmad “Tato” Masukat Ampatuan Sr., then OIC vice governor, is running for vice mayor of Mamasapano against his daughter Lady Sha-honey. Son Bahnarin is running for mayor against another son, Benzar.

The six others  implicated in the massacre – grandsons Saudi Jr., Bahnarin and Datu Anwar “Ipi” Ampatuan, Jr.;  Kanor Datumanong Ampatuan , Datu Mama Ampatuan and Datu  Norodin Ampatuan – have yet to be arrested.

All six are also running for top posts: Saudi Jr. is seeking reelection as mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town; Bahnarin is running for mayor of Mamasapano; Ipi is running for councilor of Shariff Aguak; Kanor is running for vice mayor of Datu Salibo; Datu Mama is running for councilor of Datu Salibo and Datu Norodin Datumanong Ampatuan, is running for councilor of Shariff Aguak.

Saudi’s brother, Saudi III, is running for vice mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, while Saudi’s wife Jehan-jehan Lepail is running for councilor. Saudi’s mother, Soraida, is running for vice mayor in Parang.

Earlier, only nine Ampatuans were implicated in the massacre. Ampatuan Jr.,was charged with multiple murder on December 1 while the other clan members have yet to go through preliminary investigation:  Ampatuan, Sr., Nords Ampatuan, Akmad Ampatuan, Saudi Ampatuan, Jr., Bahnarin A. Ampatuan, Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan, Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan, Sr. and Datu Zaldy “Puti”  U. Ampatuan.

On February 8, however, an amended complaint was filed before the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 under Judge Josephine Reyes-Solis, implicating 19 other Ampatuans. This brings the total number of Ampatuans implicated in the massacre to 28, but only 12 are prominent clan members. The name of Akmad Ampatuan, OIC mayor of Datu Salibo town, has been dropped from the list of respondents.

The panel of investigating prosecutors in a joint resolution dated February 5 said 11 Ampatuans were among those “positively identified by witnesses” to have participated in the carnage: Ampatuan Jr., Datu Kanor Ampatuan, Datu Bahnarin A. Ampatuan, Datu Mama Ampatuan, Datu Sajid Islam U. Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Jr., Datu Ulo Ampatuan, Datu Ipi Ampatuan, Datu Harris Ampatuan, Datu Moning Ampatuan. Also implicated in the mass murder were Mogira Hadji Anggulat, Parido Zangkala Gogo, Jun Pendatun, Kagi Faizal and Sukarno Badal.

But the panel added that, “the confluence of events before and immediately after the commission of the offense leads us to no other inference than that respondents Andal Ampatuan, Sr., Datu Zaldy “Puti” U. Ampatuan, Datu Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan, Sr., Datu Norodin Ampatuan, and Datu Jimmy Ampatuan  or five Ampatuans “connived with the actual perpetrators.”

Of the 16 Ampatuans named as perpetrators and conspirators, 12 are known. There is little information though about the real first names of Datu Ulo, Datu Harris, Datu Moning and Datu Jimmy.

Comelec records show that 68 Ampatuans are running in this year’s election – 50 of them carry the surname and 18 others use Ampatuan as middle name. Of the 50, at least 23 candidates are directly related to Andal Ampatuan, Sr.

At least 58 persons were massacred on November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan, Maguindanao,  including 32 from the media. They were traveling in a convoy from Buluan, Maguindanao and were enroute to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy for governor of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu,  when stopped along the highway of Ampatuan town by about a hundred armed men led by Ampatuan, Jr., who dug his own political grave that same day.

PHOTO: (L-R) ARMM governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, Maguindanao OIC Sajid Ampatuan, President Arroyo and Congressman Didagen Dilangalen inaugurate a project in Maguindanao.




1 Comment 24 January 2010

By Francisco Lara Jr.

The Maguindanao massacre predicts the eruption of wider violence and conflict as the nation heads towards the 2010 elections. Yet to dismiss this incident as “election-related” is to miss the fundamental political and economic implications of this evil deed. The massacre is rooted in the shift in politico-economic sources of violence and conflict in Muslim Mindanao. It signifies the emergence of new-type warlords whose powers depend upon their control of a vast illegal and shadow economy and an ever-growing slice of internal revenue allotments (IRA). Both factors induce a violent addiction to political office.

Mindanao scholars used to underscore the role of “local strong men” who were an essential component of the central state’s efforts to extend its writ over the region. The elite bargain was built upon the state’s willingness to eschew revenue generation and to grant politico-military dominance to a few Moro elites in exchange for the latter providing political thugs and armed militias to secure far-flung territories, fight the communists and separatists, and extend the administrative reach of the state.

The economic basis of the elite bargain has changed since then. Political office has become more attractive due to the billions of pesos in IRA remittances that electoral victory provides. The “winner-takes-all” nature of local electoral struggles in Muslim Mindanao also means that competition is costlier and bloodier. Meanwhile, political authority may enable control over the formal economy, but the bigger prize is the power to monopolize or to extort money from those engaged in the lucrative business of illegal drugs, gambling, kidnap-for-ransom, gun-running, and smuggling, among others. The piracy of software, CDs and DVDs, and the smuggling of pearls and other gemstones from China and Thailand are seen as micro and small enterprises. These illegal economies and a small formal sector comprise the “real” economy of Muslim Mindanao.

The failure to appreciate how this underground economy, coupled with entitlements to massive government-to-government fund transfers, shapes prevailing notions of political legitimacy and authority in the region partly explains the inability of the central state to deal with lawlessness and conflict.

Political legitimacy in Muslim Mindanao has very little to do with protecting people’s rights or providing basic services. People rarely depend on government for welfare provision, and are consequently averse to paying any taxes. People actually expect local leaders to pocket government resources, and are willing to look the other way so long as their clans dominate and they are given a small slice during elections. Legitimacy is all about providing protection to your fellow clan members by trumping the firepower of your competitors, leaving people alone, and forgetting about taxes.

There were positive signs in the recent past, especially among the Moro women and youth who bore the brunt of conflict and who sought a different future. But achieving their aspirations depends on their ability to rise above clan structures and the dynamics of hierarchy and collective self-defense that bound its members. This dilemma was painfully exposed in the Maguindanao massacre, where Moro women who usually played a strategic role in negotiating an end to rido (clan wars) became its principal victims.

The sad thing about the recent massacre is that it could have been avoided. Everyone in Central Mindanao knew about the looming violence between the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans as early as March 2009, when the latter’s patriarch Pax Mangudadatu confronted Andal Ampatuan in a public gathering and made known his clan’s intention to challenge the latter’s political hold on Maguindanao. This threat was in turn based on the knowledge that Ampatuan was planning to undermine the Mangudadatus by fielding a challenger against them in Sultan Kudarat.

In short, the “looming” rido which pundits are predicting today actually started more than six months ago. Yet neither Malacanang nor the Comelec, PNP, and the AFP made any attempt to monitor their activities, disarm their private security, demobilize their loyalists within the police and military, and ring-fence their camps.


The answer lies in the newfound role of Muslim Mindanao to national political elites. The region is known for a long history of electoral fraud. The difference today lies in its ability to provide the millions of votes that can overturn the results of national electoral contests, a situation brought about by the creation of a sub-national state (ARMM) and reinforced by the sort of democratic political competition in the post-Marcos era that makes local bosses more powerful and national leaders more beholden to them. This was the case in the presidential elections of 2004 and the senatorial race in 2007. It will serve the same purpose in 2010. Whose purpose is served by arresting Ampatuan in an election year? Certainly not those of the ruling coalition.

This partly explains the foot dragging and the lame treatment of principal suspects in the massacre. And to those pressing for limited martial rule in Maguindanao, beware what you wish for. Having a surfeit of troops on the ground can provide a superficial peace at best. At worse, it may facilitate the same type of electoral fraud in 2010, or leverage the firepower of one clan over another.

In a region where the rebellion-related conflict between the GRP-MILF received all of the national and international community’s attention and aid, NGOs such as International Alert and the Asia Foundation have often decried the ignorance and indifference of the government and donor agencies to community-based inter and intra clan violence. As International Alert asserts, it is time to focus on the confluence between both types and sources of violence and conflict. Indifference will only lead to more death and destruction as the election approaches, when a convergence between rebellion-related, and inter and intra clan conflict occurs as military forces and armed rebels take sides between warring clans and factions.

Mindanao scholars such as Patricio Abinales, James Putzel, and John Sidel have previously noted how local strong men made Mindanao, and how the region provided an ideal case of the country’s “imperfect democracy” and “political bossism.” More recently, the conflict scholar Stathis Kalyvas called attention to the birth of “ruthless political entrepreneurs” who shape and are shaped by the dynamics between states, clans, and conflict.

The viciousness of the Maguindanao attack shows how these phenomena resonate here. It demonstrates the weak and narrow reach of the central Philippine state in Muslim Mindanao, and how the continued reliance on local strong men will not end the cycle of violence.

(The author is Research Associate at the Crisis States Research Center, Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics.)


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