Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan appointed Agriculture Undersecretary

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 December) – Engineer Zamzamin Lumenda Ampatuan, on his third term as mayor of Rajah Buayan town in Maguindanao, is now the new Agriculture Undersecretary for Policy and Plans vice Segredo Serrano.

A relative of the infamous Ampatuans who dominated Maguindanao politics until a decade ago (his father was a cousin of Andal Ampatuan, Sr.,), the 56-year old civil engineer did not enter the political arena immediately.

Engr. Zamzamin Ampatuan, third-termer mayor of Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao, now Agriculture Undersecretary. MIndaNews file photo by Toto Lozano

Long before the Ampatuans lorded it over in Maguindanao, he had served in top appointive national posts. His last Presidential appointment before this Agriculture Undersecretary post was as Energy Undersecretary.

Zamzamin was 26 when President Corazon Aquino appointed him Director of the Department of Trade and Industry in Maguindanao in 1989 on the recommendation of then DTI Undersecretary Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He he served as Undersecretary and Executive Director of the Office of Muslim Affairs, Undersecretary of Agrarian Reform, Lead convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission,  Administrator of the Southern Philippines Development Administration and Undersecretary for Power and Climate Change at the Department of Energy.

“Thank you Mr. President for the trust,” he wrote on his FB page on Monday, attaching a copy of his appointment paper dated December 3, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“This would be my 9th Presidential appointment,” Zamzamin said, apparently referring to his three decades in government service.

In an interview a few days after he won the mayoralty in May 2013, Zamzamin told MindaNews that he would rather be known by his first name.

“Does it matter if you are an Ampatuan? Whether you are good or you are bad does not matter. The point is whether Zamzamin is good or bad. That’s the real point,”  he said.

Zamzamin’s parents, Datu Ishak Ampatuan and Bai Puti Lumenda Ampatuan, served  as municipal and provincial officials long before his father’s cousin, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., rose to fame and notoriety.

Zamzamin succeeded his brother Yacob in the mayoralty. Yacob served three terms as mayor of Rajah Buayan.

Yacob, elected vice mayor, is back as mayor of Rajah Buayan, succeeding his brother who assumed the post of Agriculture Undersecretary.

Detachment from stigma of family name

Zamzamin told MindaNews then that family names should be “secondary in terms of who you really are as a person” because even siblings are different from each other.

“You can probably look the same, your skin might have the same color, your features but the characters differ. The Philippines as a whole will not progress when we put (people in) a box because democracy doesn’t work in terms of perceptions. Democracy works in terms of real governance,  how leaders perform. In my campaign, I said, look at my name. I am Zamzamin. When I become mayor, I am Mayor Zamzamin.”

“The mayor is not Ampatuan, not the whole clan, not Ampatuan my relatives. They are not the ones running this town. I run this town because I am Zamzamin not because I am Ampatuan. It is how it should be perceived. I hope the baggage attached to the (family name) is removed,”  he said in mixed English and Pilipino.

Andal Ampatuan, Sr.’s rise to power in the 1990s was consolidated under the nine-year Arroyo administration (2001-2010)  when he served as three-term governor and his son, Zaldy as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Within that period, several towns were divided and new towns born with his sons and other relatives as mayor. But it was also under the Arroyo administration when Ampatuan Sr.’s family fell from power, in 2009 after the massacre of 58 persons, including the wife and sisters of  then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu and 32 media workers. The victims were en route to the Commission on Elections provincial office in Shariff Aguak town to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor.

Andal Ampatuan, Jr., who reportedly led the armed men in stopping the convoy, was supposed to run for governor in 2010.

Zamzamin acknowledges the “baggage” attached to his last name. “We cannot avoid that. We are Filipinos. We are Asians. We’ve been in the school of feudalism for centuries. Probably we are what we are as a nation because we were schooled in feudal perceptions. Tribes against tribes, clans against clans.  It’s still the same although you have to manage it. In fact, by managing it, you have to stand out. You perform. If you perform well, that’s the point of detachment from the stigma.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)