Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who really are the Ampatuans?: The Manila Times

The name Ampatuan alone connotes holiness. It comes from two words: “Ampa,” which is also Pah in Tausug dialect, is a Malay term for uncle, and “Tuan” means sir. The two words were actually being used to address a religious teacher and over time were combined as “Ampatuan.” The great grandfather of the Ampatuans was Imam Shariff Aguak, a religious leader who helped propagate the Islamic faith in Maguindanao.

Aguak used to pray in one mosque for the Friday congregational prayer and in another the following Friday. He was known to be generous as he would bring dulang or foods for those participating in the congregational prayer.

The present municipality of Shariff Aguak was named after Imam Shariff Aguak. The old name was known as Maganoy, where the mayor during the time of President Ramon Magsaysay was one of the Ampatuans named Datu Salila Ampatuan.

During the time of President Ferdinand Marcos, the mayor of Maganoy was Datu Akilan Ampatuan.

Before the signing of the Final Peace Agreement of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) with the government, Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., who was then a mass leader of MNLF, was already the mayor of Maganoy until it was renamed.

In 1998, the senior Ampatuan won the election for governor of Maguindanao province against the incumbent Zacaria Candao.

Since then, the province of Maguindanao has belonged to the Ampatuan clan.

Many have tried to wrest control of Maguindanao province, among them Guimid “Jimmy”Matalam, the son of Udtog Matalam, the legendary former governor of the so-called Cotabato Empire, but all failed.

Then came Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu of Buluan, who has stood pat with his decision to go for the leadership of Maguindanao province at all cost. So far, it has cost him the lives of his wife Genalyn and his sisters who were among the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.

The 7th child

Tagged as the mastermind of the massacre is Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of the municipality of Datu Unsay.
The suspect is the seventh child of the nine children of former Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. of Maguindanao with his first wife Kagi Laila Uy, more popularly known as “Kagi Limbuan.”

Kagi means hadja, or one who has gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca. She is of a Chinese ancestry of the Uy clan from the nearby Datu Piang municipality.

The 28-year-old Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., more popularly known as Datu Unsay, had gone to college but did not finish his course. He has two legal wives by virtue of Presidential Decree 1083, otherwise known as the “Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines.”

Sources said he married the two women on the same day.

According to a Manila Times source from Shariff Aguak town who requested anonymity, Andal Ampatuan Jr. got the nickname of “Datu Unsay” from a faith healer named Datu Unsay. During his childhood the mayor was sickly and it was Datu Unsay who was able to heal him.

Since then, he preferred to be called “Datu Unsay” just like his elder brother, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Gov. Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan who does not mind being called “Datu Puti,” a popular brand of commercial vinegar in the Philippines.

The source added that in deference to the memory of the faith healer, a municipality was created and named “Datu Unsay.” Andal Ampatuan became the first mayor of this town. He is poised to run reelection in May 2010 for his last term as a municipal mayor.

Friends and relatives of Datu Unsay describe him as soft-spoken and a humble young political leader.

All of the Ampatuan siblings have occupied either elected or appointed posts in government. The eldest son Datu Saudi Ampatuan, who was killed in a bomb explosion a few years ago, was the mayor of Datu Piang municipality. Upon his death, a municipality was created by the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly and named in his honor. The incumbent mayor of the Datu Saudi Ampatuan municipality is his son Datu Shamron Ampatuan, who got married recently to a Tausug lawyer from Sulu.

The second child is Bai Rebecca Ampatuan, at present the director of finance division of the Regional Legislative Assembly. She is married to her own cousin Mayor Akmad Ampatuan of the municipality of Mamasapano. Akmad is the acting vice governor of Maguindanao province.

Another daughter of the Ampatuan patriarch, the third sibling in a brood of nine, is Kagi Nuria, who is chief of staff of her brother, the ARMM regional governor.

The fourth child is Regional Gov. Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan, who is now in his 40s. He is married to a Midtimbang, another strong political clan in the province of Maguindanao. Datu Zaldy is the only ARMM regional governor that was reelected as the rest of the regional governors served only the Muslim autonomous region for one term.

The fifth child is Anuar Ampatuan, the incumbent mayor of the Shariff Aguak town, which is now a host to the provincial government office since the new Maguindanao provincial capitol is located here, a stone’s throw away from the mansion of the Ampatuan patriarch.

It is also in Shariff Aguak where one can find the “little Malacañang” that is an extension office of the
Executive department of the ARMM regional governor. It is here that Regional Gov. Datu Puti holds office everyday, but when attending to guests of high stature from Manila and foreign diplomats, he receives them at the Office of the Regional Governor inside the sprawling Shariff Kabunsuan Complex in Cotabato City.

After Anuar was another brother named Hoffer Ampatuan, who was described as a good-looking guy among the Ampatuans who got married to powerful clan of the famous Sinsuat clan. Unfortunately, he was shot to death while at a party in a disco house in Cotabato City a few years ago.

Another sister named Aloha is somewhat low-key and does not occupy any elective or appointed post.
The ninth child and of course the youngest is Sajid Islam Ampatuan. He is presently the acting provincial governor of Maguindanao province when his father former Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. was unseated after the Supreme Court rendered the creation of the Shariff Kabunsuan province that was carved out of the mother province of Maguindanao as null and void ab initio.

It was his own brother the ARMM regional governor who appointed him as acting governor so that the delivery of basic services in the province will not be hindered. In tandem with acting Gov. Sajid Ampatuan, is his own brother-in-law, Mayor Akmad Ampatuan of Mamasapano town was also designated by the ARMM regional governor as the acting provincial vice governor.

The High Tribunal decision stated that while the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly may have the mandate to create provinces, but it is beyond its mandate to create a congressional district. This is because the creation of a new province goes with it also the creation of a congressional district whose mandate only resides upon the Congress of the Philippines and not in the Regional Legislative Assembly itself.

Despite being tagged as the prime suspect in the so-called Maguindanao massacre, Datu Unsay from his detention cell at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters on Taft Avenue, Manila, has maintained his innocence and denied all accusations leveled against him.

While the people of Maguindanao and the rest of the Filipino nation have already convicted him beyond reasonable doubt for the mass murder of the Mangudadatu siblings and more than a dozen of the members of the Fourth Estate, under the Revised Penal Code, Datu Unsay who is still a suspect and remained innocent of the charges filed against him, can only be held guilty after due process of law has been applied and a guilty verdict has been handed down in Court. (By Julmunir I. Jannaral / Manila Times)


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