SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao (MindaNews/09 May) – Endorsed by Vice President Jejomar Binay (United Nationalist Alliance) during a proclamation rally on April 5 as the party’s official candidate for mayor here, Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan voted at the Shariff Aguak Central Elementary School here in a red collared Lacoste shirt, the color of Presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP-Laban).
“You’re wearing red. Is that a statement?” MindaNews asked Sajid, the youngest son of the late patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Jr. Sajid, whose escorts also wore red, was freed on bail in March last year upon payment of P11.6 million after a five-year detention as one of the principal suspects in the November 23 ,2009 massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them from the media.
SAJID IN RED. Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan, youngest son of the late patriarch, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., airs his complaints about the election process to Lt. Col. Edgar delos Reyes, commander of the 40th Infantry Battalion. Sajid is running for mayor of Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) but he and his escorts wore red, the color of Presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
“You’re wearing red,” MindaNews repeated the question. “Are you voting for Duterte?”
“Possible,” Sajid replied and broke into a smile. He said he had voted.
Duterte’s national campaign team had urged his supporters to wear red on election day.
Binay, frontrunner in the five-way Presidential race in several surveys in 2014, last year and this year, was down to fourth place in the last pre-election surveys of Pulse Asia, Social Weather Stations and Laylo.
Binay’s endorsement of Sajid was met with criticism but the Vice President, a lawyer, claimed Sajid was granted bail because the evidence against him was weak.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in a statement issued when he was freed on bail expressed feas the release “can only be attributed to the prosecution’s faulty presentation of its case.”
“At best, because of incompetence, at worst as part of some nefarious deal, the NUJP said in a statement.
“We demand that the Department of Justice get to the bottom of this and move quickly to repair the damage lest a miscarriage of justice in this case be added to the long litany of sins against press freedom and justice this administration has committed,” the “terribly disappointed” NUJP said.
Sajid Ampatuan was elected Vice Governor in 2007 and while in detention, was voted as member of the Provincial Board.
Reviving Ampatuan leadership
He is presently running for mayor against cousin Marop Ampatuan, the incumbent mayor who is running under the Liberal Party; Oping Ampatuan (Independent) , and Menzi Balabaran of the Natonalist People’s Coalition.
When he filed his certificate of candidacy in October last year, Sajid said his father, who succumbed to liver cancer on July 17, had tasked him to lead the reunification of the Ampatuan clan and restore political leadership in the area.
“Now that I’m out on bail, I acceded to calls from family members, relatives and friends. I want to revive the (leadership of the) Ampatuan clan,” he said.
The Ampatuan clan lorded it over in Maguindanao politics for at least a decade, until the November 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
Sajid’s father, his brothers Zaldy and Anwar, had served as Shariff Aguak mayor.
Sajid complained to Lt. Col. Edgar delos Reyes, commander of the 40th Infantry Battalion that voters were crowding outside and inside the voting precincts when there should be a queue. He said soldiers allowed persons who were not members of the Board of Election Inspetors (BEI) to enter and that supporters of Marop were trying to influence the voters inside the precinct by “bulung-bulungan” (whispering).
“Labas-pasok sila (watchers of cousin), pinapayagan pa rin. Anong klaseng eleksyon ito?” (The watchers (of my cousin) come in and out and are allowed to do so. What kind of election is this?” asked Sajid.
MindaNews tried to reach Marop but as of 5:30 p.m., he had not sent a reply.
De los Reyes told MindaNews they received complaints that persons who were not registered voters were allegedly allowed to enter the voting precincts.; that watchers of some candidates were trying to influence the voters inside the voting precincts; and that the entry gate is too small it discourages voters from coming in.
Delos Reyes said the gate used for entrance is small so that the soldiers guarding the gate can ensure the gun ban is enforced. He cited what happened earlier in Guindulungan town where one person was killed inside the school compound.
Vice Gov, Gov
Sajid is the youngest son of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his first wife Laila Uy. His elder brothers are co-accused in the massacre: Andal Ampatuan, Jr., then mayor of Datu Unsay town and who was supposed to file his certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao Governor; Anwar, then mayor of Shariff Aguak town; and Zaldy, then governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In 2007, Andal Ampatuan Sr., ran for a third term as governor He, his son Sajid, and the entire provincial slate for 20 out of 22 towns ran unopposed but voter turnout was above 90%, one town even as high as 99.78%.
Ampatuan, Sr., resigned as governor in January 2009 with Sajid assuming the post of Governor. The mayor of Mamasapano town, Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan, husband of the Ampatuan’s eldest sister, was appointed OIC Vice Governor. But in a press conference after his State of the Region Address on November 9, 2009, in what turned out to be his last press conference, then ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, in response to a reporter’s query on who really was the OIC Governor, said it was his father, Andal Ampatuan, Sr.
While in detention in 2010, Sajid ran and won a seat in the Provincial Board. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)