A new generation of Ampatuans takes over

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 June) – Are we seeing a new generation of Ampatuans in politics?

Mamasapano Mayor Tahirudin "Benzar" Ampatuan. Mindanews Photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera“Definitely,” Mamasapano Mayor Tahirodin Benzar  “Benzar” Ampatuan, one of two grandsons of  the detained former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. who received the Seal of Good Housekeeping (SGH) for good governance performance in 2011, told MindaNews before the awarding rites at the ARMM LGU Convention on Local Governance.

Only 13 of 116 municipalities in the five-province, two-city received the SGH. (see other story)

Ampatuan, who is turning 27 on Friday, and his cousin Saudi “Sean” Ampatuan III, the 26-year old mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, received the SGH from President Benigno Simeon Aquino  III , Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo and OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman  at the Waterfront Insular Hotel on Wednesday morning.

Benzar Ampatuan said they hope to show the way for the rest of the clan.

“Sana ito na ang start, sana tuloy-tuloy na,” (Hopefully this is the beginning, hopefully this will continue), said the graduate of Management from the De La Salle–College of St. Benilde in Manila and MBA  from a school in Makati.

He said the entire family is proud of their achievements in governance but he would not go as far as to say it’s a way of redeeming the Ampatuan name.

“Actually, hindi naman namin kailangan i-redeem kung ano man nagawa namin noon. Unang una, proud po ako sa lahat ng proyekto at kung ano po yung napatupad nung (Actually, we do not need to redeem whatever was done before. First of all, I am proud of all the projects and what were implemented during the)  administration before me, my father, my grandfather, my uncle), Ampatuan said, referring to his father, Akmad “Tata” Ampatuan, his grandfather Andal Ampatuan, Sr., and uncle Zaldy Ampatuan.

The three, along with Anwar, Andal Jr., and Sajid, have been in detention shortly after the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them form the media, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

Most of the victims were part of a convoy that was supposed to have filed the certificate of candidacy for governor of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.

Ampatuan said they have to “set aside emotions and stress” because they have a “a responsibility to the people” and that they should “concentrate” on the job ahead.

The two Ampatuan grandsons were cited along with the other SGH winners, for their compliance with the Department of Interior and Local Government memo circular on full disclosure policy and also for having “no COA (Commission on Audit) adverse finding on financial transactions.”

Mamasapano Mayor Tahirudin "Benzar" Ampatuan receives the Seal of Good Housekeeping Award from President Benigno Aquino III in Davao City on Wednesday. Mindanews Photo by Ferdinandh CabreraMamasapano town was also cited for being a model LGU on Municipal Vocational and Technical Training (MVTechT) by TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority)-ARMM, a regional awardee on Disaster Preparedness (Kalasag Award), and regional entry to the National Kalasag Search on Disaster Preparedness.

He said they are the only town in Maguindanao with a vocational training center. Ampatuan converted the social hall of the new town hall into a training center that offers, among others,  courses on driving, welding, electrician, hardware servicing and computer literary.

Ampatuan said the one million peso incentive from the SGH will be used to improve the classrooms and facilities of the training center which has new enrollees every 45 days.

“Actually, yun yung pinaka-main target ng tatay ko, that was in 2006 or 2007.”  He meant his father had dreamt of having that training center when he was mayor.

Ampatuan acknowledged the stigma attached to his family name but“before nila kami kritikohin o kastiguhin, alamin muna po nila kung ano ang background namin. Hindi po nila pwedeng sabihin porke kaapelyido kami or kamag-anak kami. Hindi naman po lahat ng tao.. “ (before they criticize or lambast us, they should check first on our background. They cannot just say because they have the same family name or relatives. Not everyone…)

Benzar Ampatuan, who arrived at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in a pina barong, said the vocational training center project in Mamasapano is their entry to the Galing Pook Awards.

Last year, eight local government units in the ARMM received the Galing Pook Awards-ARMM, three of them also recipients of the SGH for 2011: Sultan Mastura and Upi towns in Maguindanao and Wao in Lanao del Sur.

Maguindanao has 36 mayors, six of them Ampatuans: the mayors of Mamasapano and Datu Saudi Ampatuan;  the mayor of Datu Unsay town – Bai Reshal Santiago, wife of principal massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan, Jr.; the mayor of Datu Hofer town – Bai Johaira, wife of former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan; and the mayor of Shariff Aguak – Bai Zahara, wife of former mayor Anwar Ampatuan, Sr.; and the mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha – Bai Zandra, wife of Sajid Ampatuan.

Fourteen other Ampatuans won in the 2010 polls, including the detained Ampatuans:  Benzar Mamasapano mayor’s father  Akmad Ampatuan who won as vice mayor; Anwar Sr., who won as vice mayor in Shariff Aguak; Sajid who won as provincial board member; and the Ampatuans implicated in the massacre but still at large: Anwar, Jr., who won as number one councilor of Shariff Aguak; Saudi Jr., who was reelected mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town; Kanor who won as vice mayor and Mama who won as councilor.

The other Ampatuans in office are Zaldy Ampatuan’s eldest daughter old Bai Noraila Kristina, councilor of Datu Hofer town;  Anwar’s children Anhara and Rowella, councilors of Shariff Aguak and Manny, councilor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan;  Mahir, number one councilor of Mamasapano who assumed the vice mayoralty post won by the detained Akmad;  Jehan-jehan Lepail, who won as number one councilor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, and Soraida, Saudi’s mother, who won as vice mayor of Parang.

Jehan-jehan Lepail is the wife of  Saudi Jr. who was reelected mayor but is at large.  Saudi’s brother Saudi Sean III, who won as vice mayor, assumed as mayor while Jehan-jehan Lepail assumed as vice mayor. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)