HAD I KNOWN
Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu can be said to be both victim and beneficiary of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre.
He not only lost his wife Genalin and two sisters, according to him he lost more than 20 relatives in all, as well as supporters, his two lawyers and friends among the 32 media workers in the mad orgy of death in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao that claimed 58 lives.
All of the victims, except for five hapless passersby who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, were in a convoy on its way to Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao’s capital, to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for the governorship against Andal Ampatuan Jr. of the powerful clan that had wielded almost absolute rule over the province for a decade and who, at the time, was mayor of the town named for him, Datu Unsay.
After an initial hesitance to crack down on the suspects, who were among her closest allies, President Gloria Macpagal-Arroyo, apparently no longer able to ignore the outrage, not only of the country but the world, place the province under martial law.
With Andal Jr. and other key members of the clan detained and the heavy military presence keeping the family’s private army at bay, Mangudadatu won the elections and is now governor. Two years later, speculation remains rife over whether he had, in fact, “sacrificed” the convoy in a gambit to advance his own ambition.
We posed the question to him during a candid interview in which he talks of that fateful day and, yes, answers us.