Luisita Magsasaka

Actually, the ‘monster’ was created by Cory

Thursday, 26 November 2009 Digg! Image President Aquino gave the Ampatuan patriarch his break as OIC mayor after Edsa 1 It’s interesting how the Ampatuan clan’s political fortunes seem to be turning full circle—and how political camps that now call them “monsters” seem to have conveniently forgotten that they had something to do with how these “monsters” were bred to begin with. Liberal Party presidential bet Aquino, sure that violence in Maguindanao would escalate due to “this administration’s inaction,” is demanding the suspension of Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and other local officials found involved in the November 23 massacre of civilians. We don’t know if the senator realizes that he is in effect calling on the Arroyo government to undo an action by his mother’s administration. President Corazon Aquino, right after the Edsa Revolution in 1986, removed all the duly elected local officials and appointed OICs in their stead. In the town of Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak) in Maguindanao, the mayor then was Pinagayaw Ampatuan, who was supposedly inclined to resign anyway due to old age. The Aquino administration, with advice from then Local Government Minister (and chief government negotiator with Muslim insurgents) Aquilino Pimentel Jr., replaced just about every elected official in most local government units. It approached Maganoy differently, though. There, the Aquino government followed the succession rule and installed the vice mayor as OIC. That first-term vice mayor was Andal Ampatuan Sr. We now know him as the long-time governor of Maguindanao, and as father, grandfather, uncle, and in-law to at least 10 mayors, vice mayors, and other local officials in the province. According to local sources, the appointment of Andal Sr. as OIC mayor in 1986 was backed by Maguindanao congressman Guimid Matalam, whose father in law, former Senator Salipada Pendatun, was a Liberal Party stalwart. From then on, Andal Sr. never looked back. In 1988, in the first local elections that would test the acceptability of the OICs that Cory had installed, Andal won as mayor. He was also charged for the murder of his poll rival, Surab Abutasil. He served as mayor for the next 10 years, and then as governor of Maguindanao. Meanwhile, his sons, nephews, and grandsons have been elected to various local positions, too. The Ampatuans has since become a dependable ally of the next woman president, Gloria Arroyo. They delivered votes—believed to be rigged—in the 2004 and 2007 elections for Ms. Arroyo and her candidates in the national polls. It’s also under the Arroyo administration that the Ampatuans are said to have expanded and strengthened their private army, composed of civilian volunteers enlisted and funded by the military. Ms. Arroyo, however, may just be improving on something that Cory’s Constitution has allowed. The 1987 Constitution does not really provide the dismantling of private armies per se. Read carefully Section 24 of the Transitory Provisions—it bans only the private armies that are not sanctioned by government. But those that are “consistent with the citizen armed forced established in this Constitution”—like the civilian volunteer organizations formed by the military during Cory’s time—don’t have to go.



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