First published on March 29, 2010 

MAURA Montano doesn’t live in General Santos City anymore – not after the family breadwinner, Montano’s daughter Marife or ‘Neneng,’ who worked at radio station DXCP and Saksi Balita, was killed along with 57 others in Ampatuan, Maguindanao last November. Montano and Neneng’s two children have had to move to Alabel, Sarangani to live with Neneng’s brother because the sextagenarian lola has no means to pay rent and raise her orphaned grandchildren. 

The mother of another media victim sought a reporter’s help for P500 to buy milk for the baby her slain daughter left behind. The blood pressure of the widow of one of the murdered journalists shot up a few weeks ago not because she just had a caesarian delivery, but because a relative had shown her the partial hospital billing. Her BP returned to normal only when she was assured a media assistance group was going to foot the bill. It has been four months since the massacre in Maguindanao, in which the alleged main perpetrators are members of a rich and powerful clan. 

Until their detention, the principal suspects in the murder of Neneng and at least 57 others on November 23, 2009 lived in mansions in the country’s third poorest province, in neighboring cities, and even in Metro Manila. 

They traveled with a retinue of heavily armed escorts in a convoy of black SUVs, flew business class, and paid the equivalent of at least two business-class tickets for the handling fees of their bodyguards’ guns flown on board (and several thousands of pesos more for their bodyguards’ tickets). Each of their purchases, including those of multimillion-peso lots and luxury vehicles, were reportedly paid for in cold cash. How they acquired their supposedly fabulous fortune cannot be explained in the documents submitted by the public officials among them. But an unbridled access to public monies may be one of the keys to the puzzle, as is the willingness of national government officials to tolerate even the excesses of a political ally. 

Of wealth, weapons 

For sure, no other political clan in Mindanao history has flaunted its wealth and array of weapons as much as the Ampatuans of Maguindanao have. Not Mindanao’s top three richest governors – Davao del Norte’s Rodolfo del Rosario, Bukidnon’ s Jose Ma. Zubiri, and Zamboanga Sibugay’s George Hofer – whose yearend net worth in 2007 were P408.94 million, P103.42 million, and P100.63 million, respectively. Not even the late warlord Ali Dimaporo of Lanao del Sur was this brazen, although he did have fishponds in Lanao and a mansion in the exclusive Corinthian Gardens in Metro Manila. 

Indeed, even with several members of the Ampatuan clan in detention for the massacre in Maguindanao, the family’s wealth remains legendary. For instance, in the first few days of their detention, the principal suspects in the massacre, as well as their aides and visitors, enjoyed catered meals. 

The clan has also hired 80 lawyers, says Philip Pantojan, the Ampatuans’ Davao City-based lead attorney for Mindanao. He adds that 40 of the lawyers are in Metro Manila and headed by Philip Sigfrid Fortun, whose list of previous clients includes then President Joseph Estrada. The lawyers are available on a 24/7 basis, says Pantojan, and are paid as soon as service has been rendered. 

Securing legal expertise to this extent has been made necessary by the detention of key personalities in the Ampatuan clan: Andal Jr., Datu Unsay mayor, at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila since November 26; Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. in a private hospital and later at a military health facility in Davao City since December 5; and Andal Sr.’s other sons Datu Zaldy, governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); Anwar, mayor of Shariff Aguak; Sajid, former Maguindanao vice governor and acting Maguindanao governor; and son-in-law Akmad ‘Tato’ Ampatuan, Mamasapano mayor later appointed Maguindanao vice governor, all of them in General Santos City, and also since early December. 

Andal Jr. had reportedly led the armed men who had stopped a convoy of vehicles along the highway of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao that fateful November morning. Some 58 people, 32 of them media personnel, were then herded 3.5 kilometers up to Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, where they were all shot dead. 

Andal Sr., Zaldy, and company were arrested for alleged rebellion and later charged as conspirators of Andal Jr. in the massacre. Although the crime shocked almost everyone, it did not seem to surprise residents of Maguindanao itself. Yet, even today, few of them are willing to talk openly about life there under the Ampatuans. 

Wealth from land? 

Since the arrest of the clan’s most powerful members, though, there has been no dearth of stories about the Ampatuans’ reportedly immense riches, many of them told by people who say they witnessed the family’s spending sprees first-hand or were privy to some of the Ampatuans’ major transactions. 

Official documents filed by the Ampatuans themselves confirm that several members of the clan are millionaires. The figures and assets they cite, however, fall far short of what people believe – and what some of their own relatives say – they have. 

Rebecca Ampatuan-Ampatuan, wife of Tato Ampatuan and eldest child of Andal Sr. and his first wife Bai Laila Uy, has told reporters who have raised questions about the source of the family’s wealth, “We have vast landholdings – we have ricelands, coconut lands, cornfields." Visitors to Maguindanao, particularly to Shariff Aguak and its neighboring towns, are also often shown what residents there say are the vast landholdings of the Ampatuans. 

In his 2000 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), Andal Sr. had declared farming as among his sources of income, even though by then he had served as Shariff Aguak mayor for a decade and then as its vice-mayor from 1998. Interestingly enough, as farmer-vice mayor, he earned only P280,352.25 by the end of 2000 -- P160,744 as vice mayor and P181,608.25 from “farming." 

Still, Andal Sr. said his net worth was P6.19 million, with assets consisting of a “residential house" in Poblacion Shariff Aguak worth P2.78 million, a “farm and residential lot" also in Shariff Aguak, worth P1.53 million, one Ford 7600 tractor acquired in 1989 for P250,000 and one Nissan Safari bought in 1994 for P1.65 million. Under liabilities, he listed a P30,000 loan from “private individual." 

Six wives, 40 children 

By his 2001 SALN, Andal Sr. no longer included “farming" among his income sources. Six years later, when he was already on his third and last term as Maguindanao governor, Andal Sr. would declare a net worth of P18.5 million, and two farmlands in Shariff Aguak and Ampatuan towns, a residential lot in Shariff Aguak, an old house and lot and new house and lot acquired in 1980 and 1994-1995 in Shariff Aguak and two F-150 pickups (with plate numbers GOB 111 and GUV 111) as his assets. 

Although relatively substantial, Andal Sr.’s net worth in 2007 would not have amounted to much if that was all he had to maintain the six wives his daughter Rebecca says he has, and about 40 children (including two who have passed away). 

It certainly would not have been enough even for just the Davao City mansion being built for Bai Laila, Andal Sr.’s first wife and mother of 11 of his children, among them Rebecca, Andal Jr., and Zaldy. Located in Juna Subdivision, the structure costs some P28.2 million, according to its building permit issued on July 2, 2008. It has a floor area of 2,705 square meters, equivalent to that of 150 government low-cost housing units that average 18 square meters each. 

Targeted for completion in February 2009, the mansion was still under construction on November 24, a day after the massacre. But work stopped there soon after, rendering the 200 laborers at the site jobless, says a caretaker at the palatial residence. 

A check at the City Assessor’s Office in Davao City for property registered under the name Ampatuan yielded a total of 39, four of them owned by former Justice Secretary Simeon Ampatuan Datumanong. 

The remaining 35 are owned by members of Andal Sr.’s immediate family. (A similar check was attempted at the Provincial Assessor’s Office in Maguindanao, but this reporter was barred from continuing with her search by provincial assessor Kanguan M. Pendi without a “court order or…the consent of the landowners.") 

Nestled in Davao 

The Ampatuans apparently consider Davao City their second home. After all, it is in that city, not in neighboring Cotabato City, that their children go to school and where they set up residence for the most part of the year. Andal Sr., has eight listed properties in Davao: four in Juna Subdivision, an enclave of the city’s old rich, among them a 4,015-square-meter lot that is likely the site of Bai Laila’s unfinished mansion; two in Matina Crossing; and two in Nova Tierra. 

The recorded total market value of all eight lots is P11.39 million. (According to real-estate experts, however, the market values on record are “for taxation purposes" and are a mere quarter of the actual market values.)

 

Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., married to Bai Laila Uy Ampatuan

LOCATION 

   AREA (sqm)   

    PROPERTY TITLE & NO.     

   MARKET VALUE (in PhP)    

   Juna Subdivision    

600

T-439157 AF-09012-6795 

420,000

Juna Subdivision

600

T-439158 AF-09012-6794

420,000

Juna Subdivision

4,015

T-418140 AF-09004-0466

6,624,750

Juna Subdivision

 

AF-09012-11574

609,464

Matina Crossing

600

T-445858 AF-09012-10186

420,000

Matina Crossing

 

AE-09012-11696

700,000

Nova Tierra

 

AE-04008-9144

 

Nova Tierra

720

T-348834 AF-04008-2717

1,800.000

 

Andal Jr. has 16 to his name: nine in Juna Subdivision, two in Matina Crossing, three in Nova Tierra and two in Luzviminda Subdivision, with a total market value of P11.22 million. Of the 16, 12 have land areas between 450 and 750 square meters and come up to a total of 7,488 square meters.

Datu Andal S. Ampatuan, Jr., married to Bai Reshal and Baibon Shahira

    LOCATION  

   AREA (sqm)     

    PROPERTY TITLE & NO.          

   MARKET VALUE (in PhP)       

    Juna Subdivision    

600

T-430739 AF-09012-6713

420,000

Juna Subdivision

600

T-430740 AF-09012-6710

420,000

Juna Subdivision

600

T-430741 AF-09012-6700

420,000

Juna Subdivision

555

T-445460 AF-09012-10174

388,500

Juna Subdivision

555

T-445459 AF-09012-10175

388,500

Juna Subdivision

555

T-445458 AF-09012-10176

388,500

Juna Subdivision

600

T-444571 AF-09012-10070

420,000

Juna Subdivision

 

AF-09012-11003

343,284

Juna Subdivision

 

AF-09012-11723

423,199

Matina Crossing

783

T-416373 AF-09012-3190

548,100

Matina Crossing

 

AF-09012-10541

1,574,340

Nova Tierra

720

T-351065 AF-04008-2716

1,080,000

Nova Tierra

750

T-351730 AF-04008-2727

1,875,000

Nova Tierra

720

T-410722 AF-04013-990

1,800,000

Luzviminda Subd

450

AF-09009-12190

450,000

Luzviminda Subd

 

AE-09009-1571

287,329

 

Junior most wealthy

Based on their SALNs, Andal Jr. is the richest among the Ampatuans, having declared a net worth of P39.3 million as of yearend 2008. His listed business interest, however, was rather modest: owner of the Shariff Aguak Petron Station in Shariff Aguak since 1999, although he also declared his wife Reshal owner of the Datu Aguak Motorcycle Center in Shariff Aguak. 

Andal Jr.’s 2008 SALN also shows him to have just three properties in Davao, including two houses and one residential lot. But he listed two more houses and two other residential lots in Shariff Aguak and Cotabato City, as well as farm lots in Shariff Aguak and Datu Unsay town. 

According to his SALN, he had only one vehicle, a Mitsubishi Pajero purchased in Manila in 2007 for P2.6 million. Meanwhile, the Davao City Assessor’s Office records show that Anwar has two properties here, both in Juna Subdivision, with a total market value of P1.66 million. One has an area of 680 square meters.

 

Datu Anwar U. and Zahara Ampatuan

LOCATION

  AREA (sqm)  

       PROPERTY TITLE & NO. 

    MARKET VALUE (in PhP)    

    Juna Subdivision      

680

T-402454 AF-09004-5560

1,020,000

    Juna Subdivision

 

AE-09004-4669

646,282

 

Sajid has three – all in Guadalupe Village – with a total land area of 900 square meters and a total market value of P1.35 million.

Datu Sajid Ampatuan, married to Zandria Sinsuat

LOCATION

   AREA (sqm)    

   PROPERTY TITLE & NO.    

   MARKET VALUE (in PhP) . 

   Guadalupe Village  

300

   T-450895 AF-04012-3646

450,000

  Guadalupe Village

300

T-450897 AF-04008-7145

450,000

  Guadalupe Village

300

T-450896 AF-04008-7144

450,000

 

Rebecca herself has three as well, all in Flores Village, and with a total land area of 1,200 square meters and a market value of P830,000.

Rebecca Ampatuan, married to Akmad M. Ampatuan, Sr

     LOCATION    

   AREA (sqm)   

      PROPERTY TITLE & NO.     

      MARKET VALUE (in PhP)   

Flores Subd

300

T-451109 AF-09014-10456

210,000

Flores Subd

300

T-451110 AF-09014-10457

385,000

Flores Subd

300

T-451108 AF-09014-10455

245,000

 

Surprisingly, in the Davao City Assessor’s list, there is no property under the name of suspended ARMM Governor Zaldy, who is theoretically second in power in the family after Andal Sr., and even though a mansion on Kalamansi St. in Juna Subdivision is widely believed to be his. 

Zaldy doubles net 

In his 2007 SALN, Zaldy had also included among his assets three “residential lots and houses" – one in Shariff Aguak and two in Davao City. He also had a piece of agricultural land in Shariff Aguak, he said, plus three vehicles: a Toyota Hilux (LFN12) purchased in 2006 for P1.35 million and Toyota Hilux (LFJ 606) purchased in 2006 for the same amount and a Mitsubishi Pajero (DZN 168) purchased also in 2006 for P2.8 million. 

All in all, Zaldy figured his net worth in 2007 to be P16.41 million, or more than double what he declared in 2000. The Davao City assessor’s list, however, does have three properties in the name of Zaldy’s wife Bongbong: one in Buhangin and two in Matina Crossing with a total market value of P1.21 million.

Bongbong Ampatuan (wife of Zaldy Ampatuan)

     LOCATION

    AREA (sqm)   

    PROPERTY TITLE & NO.   

    MARKET VALUE (in PhP)   

Matina Crossing

370

T-427588 AF-09012-7708

259,000

Matina Crossing

 

AE-09012-10445

404,600

    Barangay Buhangin    

369

T-414981 AF-04002-5778

553,500

 

Other researches and interviews meanwhile indicate that the Ampatuan siblings and their relatives have several other properties across Davao City. They also could have snapped up more pieces of real estate in that city had not the massacre happened. They also could have snapped up more pieces of real estate in that city if the massacre had not happened. 

At the very least, some residents living near mansions believed to belong to the Ampatuans had already put up ‘For Sale’ signs in front of their homes. The Ampatuans, the residents say, typically give you an offer so big you cannot refuse, and they pay in cold cash. But then again, more than just the money, there was the fear that living next door to the clan is not a good idea at all. 

“They had guns and drivers of their convoy acted like they owned the streets," explains one Juna homeowner, referring to the Ampatuans. “Our neighbors were already starting to sell. If the massacre did not happen, we probably would have sold our (home), too." “I’m afraid of guns," says the resident, whose house is just a few blocks away from the Ampatuan mansions in Juna. 

“Guns are a source of trouble. I don’t want my family caught in the crossfire.

(Editor's Note: This is the first of a three-part report that was first published on March 29, 2010, Mindanews/PCIJ)