The rise and fall of Andal Ampatuan Sr.

From a report by Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Jul 18 2015 03:01 AM | Updated as of Jul 19 2015 04:24 AM

The family of Andal Ampatuan Sr. has been a fixture in the history of the Maguindanao province, with a lineage tracing back to the early settlers of Mindanao.

How did he and his family come to dominate one of the poorest provinces in the country?

Andal Ampatuan Sr. began his political career as Mayor of what was then Magonoy town. It is now Shariff Aguak, capital of Maguindanao province. .

But it was during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that the Ampatuans, with Andal Sr. at the helm gained almost total control of the province.

Andal Sr. served three terms as governor of the Maguindanao while his son Zaldy became governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.

Another son, Andal Jr., became mayor of Datu Unsay town. Other clan members spread out and won various elected positions in the province.

Arroyo looked to the Ampatuans with favor, allowing them to keep a private armed group they used to control the province and rule with impunity.

In return, the Ampatuans supported Arroyo. In the controversial 2004 elections and 2007 midterm elections, it was said the Ampatuans gave Arroyo the votes she needed. . In the 2007 polls, Maguindanao was the only province where the entire slate of Arroyo's senatorial candidates won. It was a 12 to nothing sweep.

It was also this time that the clan's wealth reportedly grew. According to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Andal Sr. and his family amassed land holdings and built opulent mansions both in and out of the province. They have a fleet of cars and travel with a large coterie of bodyguards, the report said.

But like many in power, the clan's pride and arrogance became its undoing.

On November 23, 2009, a convoy carrying members of the Mangudadatu clan, rivals of the Ampatuans, was waylaid by armed men in Ampatuan town. Shots were fired, leaving 58 people dead, including members of media.

The so-called Maguindanao Massacre sparked local and international outrage. Fingers pointed to Andal Sr. and Andal Jr. as those who gave the order to kill.

Two days later, Arroyo's political party the Lakas-Kampi-CMD expelled the Ampatuans from its ranks.

In December of that year, Andal Sr. surrendered to authorities. He was arraigned inside a Manila prison on June 1, 2011, and pleaded not guilty.

While in prison, Ampatuan Sr. was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and was brought to the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City where he was found to be suffering also from terminal liver cancer, among other illnesses.

After suffering a massive heart attack and slipping into a coma, Andal Sr. passed away Friday night.

Despite the fall from power of its patriarch, members of the Ampatuan clan still hold local positions in the province. And the trial of the Maguindanao massacre is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the case of the Maguindanao massacre continues at a snail's pace with private prosecutors saying it won't get resolved during Aquino's term.

An era, dark or otherwise depending on who is telling the story, has ended for Maguindanao.