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THE SEPARATIST: Ampatuan, 1967. By PN Abinales PDF Print E-mail
Written by PN Abinales   
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 18:12

KYOTO, Japan (MindaNews/26 January) -- I’ve been recompiling my data on Cotabato’s post-war history as part of my current research that tries to explore the connection between pestilence, public health and local politics. This meant, among other things, going back to old newspaper clippings that I was able to amass thanks mainly through the assistance of the UP Library Filipiniana section staff and their counterparts at the Lopez Museum in Ortigas. 

While going over this database, I found this The Manila Times May 9, 1967 feature of a mayor of a town that today is now associated with the brutality of elite life in southern Mindanao. It is a story of hope but also was already hinting at the fissures to come. Let the item speak for itself. A sad but also very eerie memory indeed.

Model Cotabato town
Ben S. de Castro

Ampatuan, Cotabato, May 8 (1967) Truly dedicated public service can do wonders to make a town progressive. Hadji Datu Abdullah Sangki has proved this during his incumbency as town mayor of this town for the last eight years.

Mayor’s Achievement

The Notre Dame High School run by the Oblate Fathers stands on a lot donated by the Mayor. A public high school also flourishes in the same town of 31,000 inhabitants.

Through his encouragement, the Magsaysay Memorial College and the Southern Lyceum of the Philippines now offer college education to the town’s youth.

Feeder roads that link the town to the national highways are his recent achievements. Commerce is brisk with the construction of two public markets, one in the poblacion and another in the barrio. He caused the construction of the Mao irrigation system which is now providing water for the farm lands. As a result, the people have boosted their agricultural production.

Through his representation, the townsfolk are now enjoying the services of a unit from the Presidential Arm on Community Development (PACD).

A new townhall and a health center will soon change the landscape of the thriving municipality

Appointed by Garcia

Sangki was appointed mayor of Ampatuan by the then President Carlos P. Garcia immediately after the town was erected in 1959. He was elected unopposed in 1963.

Mayor Sangki deplores the high incidence of criminality in his province, attributing it to some free-moving perpetrators of crime, the apparent indifference existing between Christians and Muslims, and the disunity prevalent among the more prominent datus.

“The long standing philosophy of ‘divide and rule’ among datus in Cotabato should be stamped out if we hope to attain unity and peace in this province,” he said.

“The province cannot prosper and there can never be much agricultural and industrial productivity if the people are not safe in their homes, in the streets and in their places of work. There are criminals on the loose and they need a leader with enough guts and determination to bring them within the folds of the law,” he stressed

Gubernatorial bet

Distressed by this state of affairs, Datu Sangki has decided to run in the gubernatorial race next November. He believes the province needs a firm hand like his to bring back normalcy to the province. He expects to be chosen as the Nacionalista standard bearer for governor in this year’s election.

Once elected governor, the mayor vows to restore peace and order in the province, as his first concern, and improve the social and economic conditions of the province.

Deeply religious, Mayor Sangki’s current project is the construction of a beautiful Muslim mosque that will be an architectural pride of the town.

Muslim tradition broken

Mayor Sangki stated that he has departed from Muslim tradition by having but one spouse; the couple are blessed with ten children. The eldest is studying medicine at Cairo University while the second is pursuing an A.N. degree at the Far Eastern University in Manila. The others are in high school and elementary grades.

The mayor’s father, the late Hadji Datu Manacop Ampatuan, after whom the town was named, served faithfully in the government as district president during the administration of President Quezon. Mayor Sangki has emulated his father’s devotion to duty.

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews' effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Patricio N. Abinales of Ozamiz City is Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Kyoto University)