Despite the prosecution and subsequent conviction of several family members for their involvement in the decade-old Maguindanao massacre, the Ampatuan clan remains a force to be reckoned with in Maguindanao politics.
GMA News Research examined the 2019 certified list of elected officials of the Comelec and found out that 32 people with Ampatuan as surname and middle name won during the May 13 polls.
Six of the 36 municipalities in the province are currently headed by an Ampatuan.
All six of these mayors are related to the late patriarch and former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., who died in jail in 2015 while on trial for the Maguindanao massacre multiple murder case.
- Datu Hoffer Ampatuan Mayor Johaira “Bongbong” Ampatuan is the wife of former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, son of Andal Sr.. Zaldy was among the 28 accused convicted of 57 counts of murder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole.
- Datu Unsay Mayor Andal "Datu Aguak" Ampatuan V is a son of former Mayor Andal "Datu Unsay" Ampatuan Jr., another son of Andal Sr. Datu Unsay was the primary suspect in the massacre and is among those sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole. Datu Aguak took his oath of office just this July after the elected mayor and vice mayor of the municipality resigned from their posts. He obtained the highest number of votes for municipal councilor during the May 13 elections.
- Mamasapano Mayor Akmad “Datu Bots” Ampatuan Jr. is a son of Andal Sr.’s daughter Rebecca and Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan Sr., who was former Mamasapano mayor and OIC vice governor of Maguindanao. Tato was among the 53 accused acquitted by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.
- Rajah Buayan Mayor Zamzamin “Datu Zam” Ampatuan is a nephew of Andal Sr.
- Shariff Aguak (Maganoy) Mayor Marop Ampatuan is a grandnephew of Andal Sr.
- Shariff Saydona Mustapha Mayor Sajid Islam “Datu Jie” Ampatuan, another son of Andal Sr., was also acquitted in the Maguindanao massacre case. The court allowed him to post an P11.6-million bail bond in 2015, noting that the prosecution failed to establish strong evidence that would warrant his continued detention while the trial is ongoing.
Besides the six mayors, one provincial board member, seven vice mayors, and 18 councilors bearing the Ampatuan name were elected last May.
Six of the vice mayors are immediate family members of the Ampatuan mayors as sibling, child, spouse or parent.
The Ampatuan clan’s election victories indicate that it continues to have a significant hold on political power. Family members should thank Andal Sr. for that.
When Andal Sr. became governor in 2001 until he stepped down in 2009, a total of 15 municipalities were created in Maguindanao. Two were named after his sons Saudi and Hoffer, who were killed in separate incidents in 2002.
The then Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had easier requirements for creation of a municipality compared to rest of the country. Under Section 437 of Muslim Mindanao Act 25 or the Local Government Code of the ARMM, a municipality may be created if it has an average annual income of at least P1.5 million for the last two consecutive years based on the 1993 constant prices, a population of at least 10,000, and contiguous territory at least 30 square kilometers.
On the other hand, Section 442 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code lays down higher criteria: at least P2.5 million average annual income for the last two consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices, at least 25,000 population, and contiguous territory of at least 50 square kilometers.
Municipalities in ARMM provinces like Maguindanao were created by the Regional Legislative Assembly of the ARMM regional government. Andal Sr.’s son Zaldy was ARMM governor from 2005 to 2009, when he was suspended for the massacre.
The new municipalities, each funded by Internal Revenue Allotment, expanded the base of the family of Andal Sr. Records show that relatives were appointed officers in charge of the new municipalities and were subsequently elected mayors in the first elections. Ampatuans were also elected vice mayors or councilors.
In the 2007 elections, at least 43 individuals bearing the Ampatuan name were candidates for various posts in Maguindanao. Upon checking with available, though incomplete, Comelec records and a 2008 edition of the Department of Budget and Management’s directory of local officials,
GMA News Research confirmed that there were at least 23 Ampatuans in office in the years before the massacre. Eighteen were elected to local posts in 2007; 3 were appointed as officers-in-charge. Two other officials obtained their posts by virtue of the 2005 ARMM elections.
In the 2010 elections which took place months after the massacre, the Ampatuans still emerged as the political family with the most number of winners. Comelec’s list of candidates had over 70 Ampatuan bets. A total of 43 individuals bearing the Ampatuan name clinched local government seats in Maguindanao--among them 28 of Andal Sr.’s children and children-in-law, grandchildren, nephews, and other relatives.
Notably, Andal Sr.'s son, Anwar "Noah" Ampatuan Sr.; son-in-law Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan Sr.; and grandson, Anwar "Ipi" Ampatuan, whose names were included in the Maguindanao massacre charge sheet just months before the elections, won in their respective races. Noah won as Shariff Aguak vice mayor; Tato as Mamasapano vice mayor; and Ipi as councilor in Shariff Aguak. Both Noah and his son Ipi are among those convicted in the Maguindanao massacre case, while Tato was acquitted.
The Ampatuans won eight mayoral posts in the 2010 elections, meaning it had direct control over one-fifth of the province’s municipalities.These included six out of the 15 municipalities created under Andal Sr.’s watch. It was the family’s biggest win in the five elections between 2007 and 2019.
But by 2013, the number of Ampatuans winning elective posts declined. None of the Ampatuans vied for ARMM regional governor, regional vice governor, provincial governor, and vice-governor. The few who sought seats in the Regional Legislative Assembly and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan did not make the cut. Still, the Ampatuan winners numbered 25.
In the 2016 elections, Ampatuans in government further went down to 22; a relative from the Midtimbang tried unsuccessfully to reclaim the gubernatorial post.
The Ampatuans slightly recovered with 32 winning bets in 2019. No one from the family vied for the gubernatorial post.
While the Ampatuans lost their grip on top regional and provincial posts, they remain strong at the local level with many relatives occupying mayoral, vice-mayoral, and councilor posts. The Ampatuans were able to hold on to four out of the 15 new mayoral posts after the May 2019 polls: Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Rajah Buayan, and Shariff Saydona Mustapha.
In Congress, Ampatuan relatives from the Sema and Datumanong branches of the family represented Maguindanao up until the 17th Congress from 2016 to 2019.
Politics in the family used to be just for Andal Sr., whose political career started as councilor of the town of Maganoy in the 1970s.
Since 1988 or for 31 straight years now, the Ampatuan family has been occupying the mayoral post in Maganoy, which was renamed Shariff Aguak in 1996. Andal Sr. was mayor for three terms from 1988 to 1998. Son Zaldy was mayor for another three terms from 1998 to 2005, when he was elected ARMM governor. Another son, Datu Anwar, was mayor from 2005 to 2010. Anwar’s wife Zahara was elected mayor from 2010 to 2016. His nephew Marop Ampatuan is the incumbent mayor.
Shariff Aguak was where then Buluan, Maguindanao Vice Mayor Toto Mangudadatu’s relatives and supporters were headed on November 23, 2009, to serve official notice of his gubernatorial aspirations. They never made it to the Ampatuan bailiwick, and the fate of that convoy went down in history as the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines. —JST, GMA News