Ampatuan patriarch is dead

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 July) — Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. former three-term governor of Maguindanao and one of the principal suspects in the 2009 massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan town, passed away at 10 p.m. on Friday, Eid’l Fitr, 42 days after he was admitted at a state-owned hospital in Quezon City for “advanced liver cancer,” and four days after he lapsed into a coma after a massive heart attack.

Quoting Ampatuan’s lawyer, Salvador Panelo, ABS-CBN news announced nearly midnight that the 74-year old  Ampatuan passed away at around 10:02 p.m. at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City.

No other details were reported.

Maguindanaons expect Ampatuan’s remains to be flown to Maguindanao immediatley for burial, in accordance with Islamic rites of burying the dead within 24 hours.

But there will be no burial honors for the former Maguindanao governor and former mayor of Shariff Aguak town who was known not only for the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan town of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media, but also for his state-tolerated private army and for delivering votes, including the controversial 12-0 win of the senatorial slate of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007.

“No burial honors. Hindi na kailangan mag half mast (There will be no flying of the flags at half mast)” for the former three-term governor of Maguindanao, Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudatu, told MindaNews Friday morning.

Mangudadatu’s wife Genalyn and his two sisters were among the massacre victims. Genalyn led the convoy bound for the Commission on Elections provincial office at the Provincial Capitol in the Ampatuan stronghold in Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao, to file her husband’s certificate of candidacy for governor.

Early Wednesday, when news about the comatose Ampatuan broke out, Mangudatu told MindaNews that if his former political ally dies, security protocol is not necessary bcuase because his remains are not a threat to the community anymore,” he said.

But Mangudadatu said Ampatuan Sr., said he is “not entitled to burial honors kasi hindi rin sya bayani sa bayan pero karapatan nya na mailibing siya ng maayos” (because he is not a hero, but it is his right to be buried decently).

In Cotabato City, Ghazali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in an interview by Tira Birada’s radio anchors on Friday morning said Ampatuan, Sr., was a Datu and political clan leader in Maguindanao that’s why he is part of the history of Maguindanao and the Bangsamoro.

“Nakikiramay ang MILF sa pamilya ni Andal bilang siya ay kapatid na Bangsamoro pero hindi ibig sabihin na sinasang-ayunan namin ang mali niyang gawain. Hindi naman lahat ng Ampatuan ay sang-ayon sa kanyang masamang gawain” (The MILF condoles iwht the family of Andal as a fellow Bangsamoro but this does not mean that we agreed with his wrongdoings. Not all the Ampautans agreed with him.

In a certification dated June 26, Dr. Jade Jamias of the NKTI said Ampatuan, who had been hospitalized since June 5 was “being managed as a case of advanced liver cancer with signs of decompensation,” and the prognosis is “currently dim as pharmacologic intervention is limited.”

“Expected life expectancy for such case is usually 3-6 (three to six) months but may be shorter if the liver function will continuously and progressively deteriorate,” Jamias said.

Detained along with the patriarch for the 2009 massacre are his sons Zaldy, second-term governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at the time of the massacre; Anwar, then mayor of Shariff Aguak; and Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr., then mayor of Datu Unsay town.

The younger Andal is believed to have led the armed men who flagged down the convoy of the emissaries of political ally-turned-rival Mangudadatu and herded them off to the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town.

Until their detention, the principal suspects in the 2009 massacre lived in mansions in the country’s third poorest province, in neighboring cities, and even in Metro Manila, traveled with a retinue of heavily armed escorts in a convoy of black SUVs, flew business class, and paid the equivalent of at least two business-class tickets for the handling fees of their bodyguards’ guns flown on board (and several thousands of pesos more for their bodyguards’ tickets).

Each of their purchase, including those of multimillion-peso lots and luxury vehicles, was reportedly paid for in cold cash.

Ampatuan was “arrested” in his mansion in Shariff Aguak (“invited” according to then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita) at around 1:30 a.m. on December 5, 2009, a few hours after mrtial law was declared.

He was told he would be brought to the Eastern Mindanao Command camp in Davao City, some 290 kilometers away via Cotabato City.

In Davao City, however, Ampatuan complained of chest pains and was brought to the Davao Doctors’ Hospital, the premier private hospital in the city. After several tests, he was given a cardio clearance for transfer to the camp hospital. He was fetched by military operatives from Davao Doctors nearly midnight December 6 and brought to the Camp Panacan Station Hospital of the EastMinCom in the early hours of December 7.

He was flown to Manila on April 17, 2010. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)