Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Warring Maguindanao clans were once political allies

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—The Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus were once political allies. In 2001, they even joined hands in toppling an incumbent governor from power.

All that changed on Monday with the massacre of more than 40 people, including members of the Mangudadatu clan, in a village of Maguindanao province, where the Ampatuans have ruled unchallenged for years.

The ties that bound the two clans began to fray in May this year when talk spread that Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu would run for governor of Maguindanao in next May’s elections.

That seemed like a direct challenge on the Ampatuans’ hold on power.

The Ampatuans and the Mangudadatus are both political allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In the 2004 presidential election, Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., the patriarch of the clan, proved his worth to Arroyo by delivering votes in massive numbers for her, helping her defeat the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., amid charges of fraud.

In some towns, Poe ended up with zero votes.

In the 2007 elections, despite being pummeled by the opposition in many areas in the country, Arroyo’s Team Unity senatorial candidates routed the opposition in Maguindanao.

In all, the Ampatuan family controls 10 of Maguindanao’s 29 towns.

Explaining his political longevity, Ampatuan Sr. once said in an interview: "It’s because of popular support."

Days before Christmas in 2007, he created a sensation at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport when, seeing off a son, he handed P1,000 each in cash to airport workers.

Claiming to be descended from the Shariff clan of the old Arabia, the Ampatuans entered Philippine politics in the 1930s when Datu Mamasapano Ampatuan, son of a 19th century Ampatuan patriarch, served as political adviser to his brother in-law, Datu Ugalingan Piang, who became member of the Commonwealth Assembly.

He later also served as political adviser to his father in-law, Datu Piang Tan, a member of the Commonwealth Senate.

Mamasapano, after whom a Maguindanao town was named, was the younger brother of Hadji Hassan, the father of Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Of Mamasapano’s siblings, two others became mayor of Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak)—Datu Akilan and Datu Pinagayao, who served in the administrations of Presidents Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos.

Datu Ishak Ampatuan, son of Mamasapano, was mayor of Datu Piang town in the 1950s.

His brother Datu Mudi was municipal councilor of the Datu Piang. Both were members of the Liberal Party that was formidable in the first Macapagal presidency. Datu Ishak’s son, Zam Ampatuan, later became energy undersecretary under Ms Arroyo.

Zam’s brother Yakub is a mayor of Rajah Buayan town.

In 2002, one of the elder Ampatuan’s sons figured in a shooting incident in Cotabato City and was killed. Two days later, another son, Datu Saudi, was killed, along with 14 of his companions and supporters, in a roadside bomb attack in his town.

The Ampatuan family is often described as “traditionalist,” adhering, so it is said, to seniority in bloodline in matters of leadership selection.

After 10 years of being undefeated as mayor and vice mayor of his town, Ampatuan Sr. aimed for the gubernatorial post in 2001.

Supported by the Mangudadatus, he handily beat then incumbent Gov. Zacaria Candao.

With their political influence, the Ampatuan family backed the creation of more towns named after their forebears—Datu Mamasapano, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Datu Salibo, or even children, Datu Hoffer, Datu Saudi, and Datu Unsay, where Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. is mayor.

In September 2005, another son of Ampatuan Sr., Zaldy, captured the governorship of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), beating known regional political figures, including the late Lanao del Sur Gov. Mahid Mutilan.

The Mangudadatus started their own reign in Maguindanao politics in 1986 during the Aquino administration when the family patriarch, Datu Pua Mangudadatu was appointed mayor of Buluan, Maguindanao.

At some point, the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans were close to each other.

It was said that before he died of illness, Datu Pua left his politician-children under the care and tutelage of the elder Ampatuan. The two old men had been very close friends.

A rift developed following rumors that Esmael Mangudadatu would run for governor in 2010.

Their ties snapped when the Mangudadatus purportedly blocked the creation of Adam municipality to be culled from the towns that they control in the south-eastern tip of the province. It was said that the proposed town did not meet the population criteria required by law.

The name Adam apparently comes from the name of the deceased father of Supt. Piang Adam, a former police provincial director said to be loyal to the elder Ampatuan and his son Andal Jr.

In July this year, an Adam relative was killed by armed men. Police later disarmed some Mangudadatu followers.

Source: http://politics.inquirer.net/view.php?db=1&article=20091124-238115

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