Engr. Ampatuan: “Please end mindset that any Ampatuan is bad”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 January) —  A member of the Ampatuan clan has appealed to the public to spare clan members who are not involved in the November 23, 2009 massacre from what he calls a “Hitleric mindset that any Ampatuan is as bad as those involved in the crime,” as he expressed fears of a miscarriage of justice if everyone is viewed as culprit.

“It is un-Christian, un-Islamic and pro-Hitlerism,” said Engr. Zamzamin Ampatuan,  who held several posts in the Arroyo administration, the last as Energy Undersecretary.

He said during the time of Adolf Hitler, “the mindset was all Jews young or old,  men or women were bad.”

“Magkaroon ng miscarriage of justice kung lahat isali as culprit” (There will be a miscarriage of justice if everyone is lumped as a culprit), the engineer told MindaNews in an interview here Sunday morning.

“Anybody who is an Ampatuan is now seemingly dragged into the case. Philosophically, it’s Hitleric. Bata, matanda, patay na Hudyo masama. (Children, the elderly, dead Jew, all bad). That’s how the Ampatuans are viewed, too,’ he said.

Zamzamin’s father is a first cousin of the Ampatuan patriarch, former three-term Maguindanao governor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.  Zamzamin is now barangay chair of Japakan in Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao and head of the Association of Barangay Captains in the town.

His wife, Bai Farida; his brother Yacob, mayor of Rajah Buayan; and another brother, Kuzberi, were among 25 respondents in the complaint filed Friday before the Ombudsman in Quezon City by some relatives of the November 23, 2009 massacre victims, for plunder, graft and corruption and forfeiture.

The complaint cited the three-part series written by MindaNews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas for the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), published in several newspapers and the websites of PCIJ and MindaNews in late March 2010, which listed the property of the Ampatuans in Davao City, including the two grand mansions in Juna Subdivision, and the fleet of cars.

Of the 25 in the list of respondents, only six Ampatuans are detained in connection with the massacre: Ampatuan Sr., and Ampatuan, Jr., then ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy, then Shariff Aguak mayor Datu Anwar, then Vice Governor later OIC Governor Datu Sajid and Mamasapano mayor later OIC Maguindanao vice governor Akmad “Tata,” husband of Rebecca, the eldest daughter of Ampatuan, Sr., and his first wife Bai Laila Uy.  A seventh suspect, then Mamasapano mayor Bahnarin Ampatuan, son of Akmad and Rebecca, remains at large.

Zamzamin said the victims’ relatives have the right to seek justice for the victims “but we also want justice,” adding that the Ampatuans who were not involved in the massacre have all been affected by what happened on November 23, 2009.

Fifty-eight persons were killed that day, 32 of them from the media when the convoy led by then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu and two vehicles that happened to pass by, were flagged down by about a hundred armed men led by then Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr. along the highway of Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The convoy was en route to Shariff Aguak, the next town, to file Mangudadatus’ certificate of candidacy for governor. Ampatuan, Jr., had intended to run for governor, unopposed, like his father, in 2007.

Members of the Ampatuan clan with houses in Davao City but who are not involved in the massacre, decried as an injustice their having been included as respondents in the plunder case.

Zamzamin said the property listed in his wife’s name in a government subdivision in Davao City “was acquired before she served as vice mayor of Matanog and it’s a very modest house.”

He said his wife’s father, a lawyer of the former owner, arranged for a  “very soft two-year payment term for the property.” Another house on the same street, also in the name of his wife, “was acquired through loan from Unionbank… payable monthly for 15 years.”

The property listed in the name of Mayor Yacob Ampatuan in the same government subdivision “was rented and not owned” by him, the engineer said.

The same house was listed also in the name of Mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the principal suspect in the massacre.

Zamzamin said the house was earlier rented by Ampatuan, Jr.

“As for Kuzbari Ampatuan (their youngest brother), he has no listed property anywhere in the Philippines. He is a modest municipal employee of Rajah Buayan. He could not even afford to complete his house in Ampatuan to be built of concrete and indigenous materials. During the martial law days after the 11/23 massacre, he moved his family out of Ampatuan and he now rents and apartment in Cotabato City where his wife, a school teacher, and children live peacefully,” Zamzamin said.

He said the grandchildren of the Ampatuan patriarch, including the children of those detained, who attended school in Davao City, were all pulled out immediately after the massacre.

He let his children say in school in Davao City because “we’re not involved (in the massacre).

Zamzamin recounted how he discussed the massacre with his five children, the youngest of the five then in pre-school and the eldest in college, how he told them that what happened was wrong and that while they bear the same surnames, there are those in the clan with wayward attitude and that they should “strengthen their good nature.”

He said  his children’s reaction to what happened was “intellectual reaction, not emotional.”

“I told them what happened was like a storm hitting everyone – young or old. It  does not mean God is bad. It’s just that we have to face these trials. Just prove yourself. You are different from them,” he said.

He said the reactions to the massacre included people demanding all the Ampatuans be hanged.  In one protest action in a province, he said, a lawyer-speaker even said no Ampatuan should be allowed to work in government.

“Is this the way of justice? Democracy? Christian living? We should be civilized in our reactions,” he said.

He also said the case should have been handled well by focusing on the principal suspects first. He said it was rather sweeping that  the CVOs (civilian volunteers organization) and police personnel were included when some of them were not involved and the others were following orders from their superiors.

He said the CVOs and police personnel have families who are also bearing the brunt of  what happened on November 23, 2009.

Aside from being unable to earn for their families, “legally they cannot defend themselves,” he said.

Zamzamin said “there may be 57 actual victims (the remains of the 58th have yet to be retrieved but for the denture),  but there are thousands more who became victims not by the ones who perpetrated the crime but by the way we  reacted to it.”

He said instead of a “supposedly civilized reaction in the name of justice,” what happened was that the “CVOs, police, Ampatuans dead to living, children and elderly” were all lumped as culprits. (MindaNews)