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Ampatuans still dominate Maguindanao polls

MANILA, Philippines - At least 400 of more than 1,000 candidates running for 369 elective posts in Maguindanao on May 13 are part of at least one of the clans dominating the province, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said yesterday.

PCIJ multimedia director Ed Lingao revealed the findings of the research, which was released this week in a three-part report and a 30-minute documentary during a forum in Quezon City.

Data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed a total of 1,180 candidates are running in Maguindanao in this year’s elections.

The PCIJ report said a total of 240 people running for various elective posts in the province are carrying surnames of at least 23 clans fielding at least six members.

The number reached over 400 when the PCIJ included in the list those who have Ampatuan as their middle names.

Topping the list was the Ampatuans, who are fielding a total of 80 candidates carrying the clan name as their surnames or middle names.

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Also in the list were the Midtimbangs and the Sangkis with 26 and 25 candidates, respectively.

The Mangudadatus – who were considered the foremost political rival of the Ampatuans in the 2010 elections – are fielding 18 candidates, including reelectionist Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of the administration Liberal Party (LP).

Lingao said Mangudadatu’s opponent, Tucao Mastura of United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), also belongs to a political clan, which is fielding eight candidates in this year’s elections.

Candidates for the number two provincial post, Lester Sinsuat (LP) and Datu Ali Midtimbang (UNA), also belong to political clans.

Members of the same clan are also vying for the same political seat, Lingao said.

For instance, re-electionist Shariff Aguak mayor Zahara Ampatuan – daughter-in-law of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. – is facing Sarip Ampatuan, Andal Sr.’s half-brother.

In the nearby Datu Hoffer, reelectionist mayor Johaira Midtimbang-Ampatuan – wife of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan – is facing Yamashita Mangacop, who claimed to be a distant relative of both the Ampatuans and Mangudadatus.

Under major political parties

The PCIJ report revealed the nine Ampatuans are running under the LP banner, while 34 belong to either Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which recently merged to form UNA.

In the report, UNA secretary-general Toby Tiangco reportedly said the opposition alliance did not endorse any Ampatuans, even as its two member-parties may have done so at the local level.

Johaira and Zahara Ampatuan are both running under PDP-Laban. Tiangco said in the report that he sees no problem endorsing the wives of the Maguindanao massacre suspects since they are not the accused themselves.

Johaira’s husband Zaldy and Zahara’s husband Anwar Sr. are both facing multiple murder charges in connection with the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

A total of 197 people, including Ampatuan clan patriarch Andal Sr., were implicated in the killing of 58 people, including 32 media practitioners.

The media were supposed to cover the filing of the certificate of candidacy of then-Buluan Vice Mayor and now Maguindanao Gov. Mangudadatu. Among the victims were Mangudadatu’s wife and sisters.

Despite the rift with the Ampatuans, Mangudadatu’s LP slate this year is carrying nine Ampatuans.

Defending the inclusion of Ampatuans in the administration ticket, Mangudadatu said in the PCIJ report that they are “the good Ampatuans,” who disobeyed the orders of their patriarch.

But in the report, reelectionist provincial board member Yasser Ampatuan (LP) admitted being a close ally of Andal Sr. prior to the massacre.

Effects of political clans

According to Lingao, they decided to conduct the study on political clans in Maguindanao because it has one of the biggest and most influential political clans in the country, their influence on the national government, and the Maguindanao massacre.

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