PART 1: The changeless clans of Maguindanao


There are few names in the history of the Province that have achieved, for good or for bad, FULL consolidation of political powers in the Bangsamoro.


The first one was the old Patriarch of Cotabato, Governor Datu Udtog Matalam, and the second was the former Governor of Maguindanao, Datu Andal Ampatuan. The former was the recognized LORD of the then Empire Province of Cotabato and the latter was the ‘de facto’ LORD of the five provinces that composed the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.


The now infamous Maguindanao Massacre on November 23, 2009 cut short the reign of the Ampatuan clan both in the Province as well as in the ARMM. While the Ampatuan clan was no longer a power to reckon with both in the Province and in the ARMM, the clan, however, has maintained the hold on political powers in its traditional ‘fiefdom’, the Municipality of Maganoy (now subdivided into four small municipalities).


The Mangudadatu Clan has taken the place of the Ampatuans in the Province of Maguindanao following Gov. Ismael ‘Toto” Mangudadatu’s victory in 2010 elections. Beside the Province of Maguindanao, the Mangudadatu clan has also the hold on political power in the Municipality of Buluan including the Lake Buluan (now subdivided into 3 small municipalities).


There are two prominent branches of the Mangudadatu Clan. The first is the Buluan branch with Gov. Toto Mangudadatu as the recognized clan patriarch notwithstanding his young age. He presided over his four brothers – Mayor Jong of Buluan , Mayor Freddie of Mangudadatu and Mayor Sadjid of Pantag and ARMM Assemblyman Khadafi.


The other branch of the Mangudadatu clan is the LORD of the other side of Buluan Lake presided by former Gov. Pax Mangudadatu. From Lutayan, Sultan Kudarat, this branch is able to capture the political powers both in the Province of Sultan Kudarat and in the Congressional Districts of the province.


The old man, Datu Andal Ampatuan, presided over all the ruling clans, including the Mangudadatu, the Mastura, the Sinsuat, the Matalam, and the Midtimbang from 2001 to its ‘downfall’ in 2009. Except for the Candao family that was dislodged by the Ampatuan in 2001 from the seat of power marked by blood (rido), Datu Andal Ampatuan was the recognized PARAMOUNT LORD not only in all of the Province of Maguindanao but also of all the component provinces of the ARMM.


The split between the Ampatuan and the Mangudadatu came about when the former refused to share power in the May 2010 Elections. The discussion then was for Toto Mangudadatu to run as ‘unopposed’ Vice Governor to partner with a designated Ampatuan successor (by the old man) for Governor of the Province.


The refusal of the younger Ampatuan, particularly ‘Junior’, to share power with Mangudadatu, had forced the Mangudadatu to openly contest ‘Junior’ then being groomed by the father to be the next Governor of the Province.


Even way back in the early 2009, when ‘Junior’ was groomed to be the next Governor in 2010, there were talks of possible new political alliance. Initially it was dubbed as‘the 4 M’s’ referring to Mangudadatu, Midtimbang, Matalam and Mastura. But before this alliance could take off the ground, DatuAndal was able to ‘win’ the allegiance of the 3 M’s - Midtimbang, Matalam and Mastura at the famous political caucus in one of his favorite 5-star hotels in Makati. By ‘torpedoing’ the still embryonic political alliance, the Mangudadatu clan was left all alone in the field.


In short, the now infamous Maguindanao massacre should never have happened since electoral victory was assured in the province. All the political cracks in clan politics were neatly resolved thereby ensuring the continued hold of the Ampatuan both in the Province and the ARMM.


All was well until the ‘Junior’ thought that the mere filing of certificate of candidacy for the position of Governor of the Province was an affront to the Ampatuan Clan. Everybody in the province including the COMELEC, the AFP and the PNP were on the know that ‘Junior’ was preparing to do ‘battle’ and by sheer force, he would ‘eliminate’ Toto Mangudadatu and his followers.


The scenario was prepared for this battle. First, COMELEC closed its branch in Cotabato City for the purpose and it ruled that the filing for certificates of candidacy had to be completed and done in the Provincial COMELEC Office at the Capitol in Sharif Aguak. Second, the AFP must have been told NOT to interfere in this purely inter-clan battle by remaining in their post (a little more than four kilometers from the site of the massacre). Well, the PNP was literally the ‘bodyguards’ of the Ampatuans.


But the tragedy happened when the planned battle never took place. Instead of the equally high power armed Mangudadatu men, it was the UNARMED Mangudadatu women accompanied by media people that appeared in the scene. In the last minutes discussion in Buluan, his mother prevailed upon Toto Mangudadatu to allow the Mangudadatu women accompanied by media people to file the certificate of candidacy for him. The mother and all including myself believed that Datu Andal, being a real Maguindanao Warlord, would respect unarmed women and media people in the convoy.


But another tragedy struck… It was NOT the ‘Senior’ that was there in the scene but the ‘Junior’! It was a MASSACRE!


( Next series: Mastura contesting Mangudadatu)


Follow Fr. Eliseo Mercado on Twitter @junmeromi.