Jun Mercado, OMI: No link between Cory and Ampatuans

DISCLAIMER: This text is redacted from Jun Mercado’s blog on GMA News. Read the full text here.

“These were the actual arrangements in the political chess board when the Massacre occurred in the Province of Maguindanao that fateful morning of the 23rd of November 2009.”

Background: What is warlordism?

The Maguindanao massacre brought to the fore the issue of ‘warlodism’ in Muslim Mindanao. 

Warlordism in the Philippines, especially in Muslim Mindanao, is primarily based on a feudal system that continues to characterize the power relations not only between clans and families but also between the central power (Manila) and the periphery.

Warlordism is often associated with two major issues. The first issue involves the control over the machineries of the state that includes the security sectors (PNP and the AFP).

The second issue is about lawlessness with impunity. 

The ‘warlords’ are sort of ‘sui generis’ – ‘the rule of law’ is understood as the execution of their whims and caprices.

In modern times, the power basis of the warlords is no longer measured by the blood ancestry but by the actual ‘connection’ of the warlords to the all powerful Presidency of the Republic. 

People cite the infamous three “Gs” – guns, goons, and gold – in the making of the warlords. 

But the sad tragedy is that these three “Gs” are government’s ‘properties’.

Under the present dispensation, particularly in the ARMM, people speak in whisper of yet another ‘G’. 

That fourth ‘G’ refers to Gloria or President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The ‘unlimited’ access to this fourth ‘G’ is the all that distinguishes the small time ‘warlord’ to a paramount warlord of a province or a the entire region.

Usually, the rise and fall of a paramount warlord depended on the whims and caprices of the real paramount LORD that resides along the Pasig River.

The Ampatuan clan was able to venture outside their traditional ‘domain’ (Maganoy) with the ‘blessing’ of the paramount LORD in Malacañang.

The rise of the Ampatuans

Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. was already the ‘ruler’ of Maganoy during the time of Ferdinand Marcos. President Cory Aquino in 1986 removed him from office and deprived him of access to the security forces of the state after EDSA 1.

But in the first election under the 1987 Constitution, Datu Andal Sr. became the undisputed Mayor of Maganoy. 

His rival, Datu Surab Abutazil, also of the Ampatuan clan, was assassinated in broad daylight in a cafeteria right in the market place of Maganoy. 

Mayor Andal was charged for the murder of Datu Surab but later the case was dismissed for lack of witnesses.

The turning point for the Ampatuan clan happened during the 2001 local elections. With the full support of the PNP and the AFP, Datu Andal had beaten the incumbent Maguindanao Governor and the 1st ARMM Governor, Zacaria Candao. 
Datu Andal became the ‘avid’ supporter of President Gloria in her decision to run for the Presidency in 2004.

He “delivered” the whole province to Gloria against the more popular Fernando Poe, Jr. 

This electoral ‘feat’ made Datu Andal the new ‘anointed’ one not only for the province but also for the entire ARMM.

It was no accident in 2005, when the Ampatuan made a run for the head ‘honcho’ of the ARMM. 

It was an invitation to the government and President Gloria to shift to a more ‘manageable and predictable overseer’ over the ARMM after almost nine years of disarray under the rule of the MNLF (more than five years under Nur Misuari and 3 years under Parouk Hussin).

With the ARMM falling into the hands of the Ampatuan clan and under the total patronage of Malacañang, the hold of the clan over the ARMM and Maguindanao has become undisputed. It is a steady and phenomenal rise to almost absolute power.

During the 2007 elections, the Ampatuan clan had proven, beyond doubt, their complete control of all government machineries including the Commission on Elections and the security forces in the area by the delivery a 12-0 results in the senatorial slate for the administration. 

This was also mirrored in the ‘no contest’ election in the province. From the provincial slate to the municipal slate in 30 towns in Maguindanao out of 32, all the positions were not contested.

In the past, the national government was the ‘check and balance’ vis-a-vis local warlords. 

The government in Manila made sure that the warlord’s control remains within his family or clan domain. 

Even during the height of martial law, President Marcos made sure that no one family or clan dominated the whole region.

This equation has changed completely during the Presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo following the 2004 national elections.

There evolved a sort of symbiosis in the political agenda between the central government and the Ampatuan clan gaining control over the province of Maguindanao and the ARMM.

The shifting national politics after the death of President Cory begins to impact the local politics. 

Malacañang is no longer seen as the power that makes or unmakes local leaders. 

In fact, this is the first crack in the hold of the Ampatuan clan over the province. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the Sr. Ampatuan CANNOT run anymore for the top post.

On the other hand, the Mangudadatu clan is telling the new emerging national leaders that the time has come for new ‘stewards’ in the province. 

New political alliances begin to take shape in the province, when the Mangudadatu clan made known their intention to challenge the younger Ampatuan for the gubernatorial post.

These were the actual arrangements in the political chess board when the Massacre occurred in the Province of Maguindanao that fateful morning of the 23rd of November 2009.


16 Responses so far

  1. 1

    Melvin said,

    Jun Mercado, OMI: No link between Cory and Ampatuans ….

    Does this mean that the article [Cory gave Ampatuan patriarch his break] is incorrect?


    Cory gave Ampatuan patriarch his break

    After Edsa 1, Andal was appointed OIC mayor

    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….

    • 2


      The quick answer is YES, the article is incorrect. The longer is answer is, to give the writer of that article the benefit of the doubt, facts were misinterpreted.

      Fr Mercado stated that Cory Aquino removed Andal Ampatuan Sr from office in 1986.
      She DID install another Ampatuan (you really have no choice because they’re pretty much all there are in the region), Datu Bodhi Ampatuan. Datu Bodhi is a non-political member of the Ampatuan clan, who held office peacefully in 1986 until the next election in 1987, in which Andal Ampatuan Sr regained power.

      I hope this clarifies the issue. Thank you!

  2. 3

    sychitpin said,

    the ampatuans and gma were partners in crime against the people, the whole world know they conspired in the massive cheating during the 2004 and 2007 elections…………

    one day after the maguindanao massacre, gma sent dureza to pay a courtesy call tand have coffee with the mass murderers instead of arresting them…….

    after public and international outrage and several days have passed allowing ampatuans to destroy evidences, dureza fetched mayor ampatuan jr by helicopter and brought to NBI more like a VIP instead of a criminal and without handcuff

    gma’s spokeperson Lorelei Fajardo stated categorically on nationwide TV that gma and the ampatunas will be BFF (best friend forever) despite the heinous crime….

    the ampatuans were monsters created by gma ……….. gma is the leader of monsters…..

  3. 4

    sychitpin said,

    the real issue on hand is gma’s conspiracy with the ampatuans resulting to maguindanao massacre, linking Cory was a baseless diversionary tactic that is better ignored, focus should be on gma’s impunity in betraying people’s trust, deceit and wanton disregard of law

  4. 5

    An additional resource to explain the non-link between Cory Aquino and the Massacre:


    Basically, the creation of private armies is not provided for in the 1987 constitution.

    However, Cory Aquino’s EO 264 allowed the creation of small private “armies” (read: not army of a private citizen, but army made of private citizens, ie, not the military) to augment local police forces. Membership into these groups, or CAFGUS, must be highly selective, i.e., reservists, etc. Not just anyone.
    Also, they can only move with the say-so of the president. Local governments were not permitted to mobilize them, because in the absence of orders from the highest echelons of the national government, such relegation to local governments would create warlordism.

    Fast-forward 2006, Arroyo issues EO 546, which implicitly repeals EO 264. Under Arroyo’s EO 546, the conditions for membership into local CAFGUS is less stringent (almost anyone), and power to mobilize is relegated to local governments. The result: Warlordism.

  5. 7

    … thank you as i have learned so much from the thread… it is indeed an eye-opener for everybody to read and discern which faction to side with… you are correct, the late president cory aquino had only good intentions but unfortunately some people used her goodness and took advantage of it to acquire wanton power… and therefore it is definitely unfair to link her to warlordism in maguindanao.

  6. 8

    ChitoC said,

    I disagree, completely.

    One has to go back in history. A hundred years ago, today, General John J. Pershing became the Governor of Mindanao. For some this was the start of the total obliteration of the rights of the Moro people. It was during this time that governance from Manila was strengthened, an educational system was established with an curriculum inconsistent with the realities of history and Mindanao culture then, and the torrens titling system was introduced to formally take the ancestral lands of the Moro people and lumads of Mindanao.

    From the perspective of the struggle, The struggle of the Moro people for self-determination dates back to 1565. In its website, the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) proposes that the struggle “is not an isolated cry of religious community seeking accommodation within the framework of the Philippine society”. The struggle, from the beginning, encompassed economic and cultural issues that up to today, have not been addressed properly.

    The current armed conflict, however, originated among a small number of students and intellectuals in the late 1960s, many of them coming from non-elite Muslim families. Reuben Canoy has a long story of how a personal feud between the son of Governor Udtog Matalam and a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent. In his book on Mindanao independence, Canoy reounted how after an altercation in a bar, the NBI agent went to get his weapon and shot the son of Governor Matalam. From his perspective, this was the equivalence of incident in Sosiego and Silencio Streets in Sta. Mesa, Manila, when Private Grayson shot a group of Filipinos that marked the start of the Philippine American War.

    Poetic as it sounds, the start of the armed conflict must have been more than just the brutal killing of Matalam’s son. It must have been a conflagration of many forces, some dating back to 1565. To many historians, nothing as seemed more incendiary as the Jabidah Massacre, or more to the point, the exposure of the Jabidah Massacre.

    The events leading to this event in March 1968 had to do with an attempt of the Philippine Government to reclaim Sabah from the Malaysians.For those who do not know, the Sultan of Borneo had given Sabah to the Sultan of Jolo as a gift for helping quell a rebellion in Borneo. In 1878, around the time the British took over Malaysia, the Sultan of Jolo entered into an agreement with Baron von Overbeck and Alfred Dent. This agreement was subsequently assigned to the North Borneo Company.

    In mid-1962, then President Diosdado Macapagal made an official request from the British Government to return the resources-rich Sabah to the Philippines based on the premise that the Sultan of Sulu had merely “leased” the property to the British. The British refused and insisted that the agreement with von Overbeack was a “purchase” rather than a “lease.” There was a controversy on the use of the term “padjak” which was incorporated in the original document. Apparently the term meant both “lease” and “purchase” in the Malay language. At this point, the new Malaysian Government considered the issue as something between the British and the Philippines.

    As an aside, this whole issue of Sabah saw the Philippines being shabbily treated by the british and subsequently the United States. In their recognition of Malaysia in September 1963, neither Kennedy nor Johnson pressed the British in recognizing what was, and may still be, a clear legal case for the Philippines. There is a whole literature on this matter, but a good source is H. B. Jacobini (Asia Survey, Volume 4, No. 11, November 1964), who concluded that the behavior of the British towards the Philippines (at one time delaying the issue of visas for an official meeting in Malaysia) was bordering on insult and the treatment not only of the US government but also the US press was, at best, very shabby.

    Failing the diplomatic approach to reclaim Sabah, the Philippine government under President Marcos decided to launch in 1967 a clandestine military operation using Moro recruits. Seeing that the world was at best, indifferent to the claims of the Philippines, and at worst, antagonistic, it is believed that the Philippine leadership at that time was left without no choice but to uphold its sovereignty. And given that the Malaysian Government was still new at that time, the Philippine Government must have felt it had sufficient military strength to take back Sabah.

    Code named “Operation Merdika,” 180 trainees were brought to Simunul island in Tawi-tawi. The commando unit was named: “Jabidah.” They were then transferred to Corridor where the training continued but under worsening pay and food conditions for the trainees. Under these conditions and upon learning of their ultimate objective, that of possibly killing their fellow Moslems some of whom were their relatives, around 60 trainees mutinied. This led to the “Jabidah Massacre” perpetrated by the trainers and officers of these trainees.

    It would have been left at that — as a failed clandestine operation of the Philippine government.

    The Jabidah Massacre, however, became the turning point of the Moro people’s struggle in Mindanao because of how the Philippine government handled the situation. Being a top secret security project, it was incumbent upon all government officials to treat any information on the project with extreme caution as it involved the highest national interest.

    Instead, a young Senator of the Republic, Sen. Ninoy Aquino, Jr., exposed the top-secret national security project on the Senate floor, creating big headlines, exposing lives of individuals to harm, and raising the possibility of a direct and open armed conflict with Malaysia.

    Already reeling from the Matalam debacle, the Jabidah Massacre exposé simply broke the dam of Moro discontent and led to the start of the modern-day armed conflict. Beginning in the early 1970s, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) began the war in Mindanao and although several peace attempts have been made, that war continues to today, a war that gave a reason to the government to the Ampatuans power in Maguindanao.

    One cannot blame the government for attempting to reclaim what it believes rightfully belongs to the Philippines. One cannot blame the government for attempting to use military force to enforce its sovereignty over its own dominion. One should blame the government for being inept and stupid in bungling up the top secret operation and one should certainly bring to jail those responsible for the murder of those trainees.

    Equally to blame, however, and perhaps in a much bigger way, is the man who, in effect, exposed a national security project to the world thus leading the way to the long protracted war in Mindanao. This man was Ninoy Aquino, Jr.

    As one writer puts it, in any democracy, “any such security project involving the recovery of national territory gets bipartisan support and a responsible opposition leader who learns of any covert plan…will demand an executive briefing on it for his/her official guidance, instead of risking war with another country by exposing the secret in the press.” Aquino, on the other hand, behaved in a completely irresponsible manner without considering the profound implications his reckless actions would have on the stability of the country.

    Because of the long protracted war, the Philippine government has had to resort to soliciting support from civilian volunteers for military action. Called Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) as well as Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs), these armed units were set up to augment the regular military units who are engaged in the Mindanao war this time against the MILF and in some areas, against the Abu Sayaf. The activation of these units were incorporated in the Cory Constitution. As one blogger puts it, Cory disbanded the CHDF of Marcos, but actually just created a different collar for the same dog, the CHDF became the CAFGU. These CAFGUs are, in effect, vigilantes used by the military in its counter-insurgency against the CPP-NPA and the MILF.

    Similarly, the warlords continued to have a legal basis to have their own private armies. Because of the Mindanao conflict, Government simply looked the other way and tolerated private armies of entrenched politicians. This gave the Ampatuans with the legal basis to have its own private army. With an army that could run around Maguindanao with powers sometimes beyond that of the regular army units, one can then imagine why almost anything is possible in Maguindanao – electoral fraud, and just recently, rape and murder.

    These — CVOs and CAFGUs — are most likely the same units that committed the Maguindanao Massacre.

    Did Aquino ever think his irresponsible behavior 40 years ago will have such debilitating and horrific impact in the 21st century?

    Today, his son, Noynoy Aquino, is calling for the suspension of the Ampatuans and decrying the “inaction” of the government. He probably does not realize that the problem of Mindanao was contributed in no small part by his father, Ninoy Aquino. And as if this was not enough, his mother, Cory Aquino, exacerbated the problem by APPOINTING ANDAL AMPATUAN, SR. Mayor of the town that is now called Shariff Aguak.

    Ninoy Aquino opened the floodgates of the Mindanao conflict by recklessly exposing a national security operation, one that would have upheld our sovereignty in our own land. Cory deepened the wounds of the Mindanao conflict by allowing the perpetration of private armies in her Cory institution and providing Andal Ampatuan Sr with a career path that led to the Maguindanao Massacre.

    To me, the connection is very direct and very clear.

    • 9

      Unfortunately, sir, your sources are polluted.


      Warlordism in the Philippines, specifically in the South, is rooted in the feudal system in place in pre-Spanish Philippines, which was politically divided by clans.

      According to Mindanao peace advocate, Jun Mercado, OMI:

      Modern warlordism is based on two issues:

      (1) Their actions are characterized by lawlessness and impunity;

      (2) Their access to the “machineries of the state” such as local police and military. The relationship of present-day “warlords” with the central government is crucial here; their power, while typically kept within the family, is no longer based on their blood ancestry but on their connection with the president of the republic.

      The Aquino Administration and the Ampatuans

      Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr, father of the main accused in the Maguindanao Massacre, was already in power in Maganoy (now Shariff Aguak) during the Marcos era. When Cory Aquino came into office, she had Ampatuan Sr removed from office and deprived him of access to security forces.

      “President Aquino appointed Aquilino Pimentel Jr., former Mayor of Cagayan de Oro City and erstwhile political detainee, as Minister of Local Governments. With the President’s approval, he began a purge of governors, mayors, and other local officials perceived to be loyal to the ousted President. He appointed officers-in-charge (OICs) in their place, until regular elections could be held.” (In the Face of Crisis)

      The Rise of the Ampatuans

      The first elections following the replacement of Andal Ampatuan Sr, with a non-political relation Datu Bodhi Ampatuan, was in 1987. Andal Ampatuan Sr won, and was reinstated as mayor of Maganoy. He was accused of killing his main opponent in the elections in plain sight, but the case was dismissed for lack of witnesses.

      In 2001, Ampatuan Sr won the gubernatorial elections in the Maguindanao, against Zacarias Candao, and with the full support of the PNP and AFP. Ampatuan Sr was an avid supporter of GMA and is accused of “delivering” the province of Maguindanao to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 elections. According to Mercado, this electoral feat made him the new “anointed one” in the eyes of the president.

      “Arroyo returns the favors by letting them rule Maguindanao like a fiefdom. All economic initiatives need the Ampatuans’ assent; state funds are released through them. Even the posting of police and military generals are cleared with them. All the Ampatuans are with the admin party. Zaldy was Malacañang’s choice for ARMM governor in 2005.” (“Ampatuan Dynasty grew under Arroyo,” Jarius Bondoc)

      In 2005, Ampatuan Sr’s son Zaldy, became governor of ARMM.

      “With the ARMM falling into the hands of the Ampatuan clan and under the

      total patronage of Malacañang, the hold of the clan over the ARMM and Maguindanao has become undisputed. It is a steady and phenomenal rise to almost absolute power.” (Mercado)

      Read “The Making of a Political Dynasty,” detailing the various positions assumed by the Ampatuan clan.

      “Private armies,” the Constitution and the President

      In 1987, President Cory Aquino issued E.O. 264 which would include a Citizen’s Armed Force to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The citizen’s arm would only be composed of qualified and trained reservists. These are the CAF GUs, or Citizen Armed Forces into Geographical Units.

      EO 264 was enacted in light of constitutional provision Section 4 Article XVI, which states that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will also be constituted of a citizen arm which shall undergo military training, and will be kept as a regular, complementary force necessary for state security.

      Under EO 264, In times of military necessity, and upon recommendation of the Secretary of National Defense, and approval of the President, the CAFs maybe be mobilized to complement the regular Armed Forces. They shall not be vested with law-enforcement or police functions.

      This is a stark difference from Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s 2006 EO 546, which repealed EO 264.

      Under Arroyo’s EO 546, “The PNP is authorized to deputize baranggay tanods as force multipliers,” that is, the authority to mobilize CAFs no longer rests on the central government, but in local chief executives and local police forces.

      “In 2006 the Ampatuans’ might was enhanced when the interior department approved the arming with rifles of civilian volunteers against separatists. That practically allowed their supporters to stage checkpoints and patrols, and made the police a mere adjunct.” (Bondoc)

      Senators Aquino and Roxas have called for the repeal of EO 546, because its provisions relegated power to mobilize militia from the president to local chief executives, and in the case of Maguindanao, the making of warlords.

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