A MALACAÑANG INSIDER TOLD me that President Gloria hemmed and hawed hours after she was informed about the massacre in Maguindanao, instead of ordering the arrest of the Ampatuans.
As a result, the Ampatuans?Zaldy, governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and his father, Maguindanao Gov. Andal Sr.?the alleged masterminds in the dastardly massacre can no longer be arrested without a court warrant since the prescribed 24-hour period had lapsed.
The President was told the Ampatuans could have been responsible for the massacre by one of the Mangudadatus, their political enemies, according to my Palace informant.
After receiving the information about the massacre, GMA talked with Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., who denied masterminding the massacre.
The President, according to the Malacañang insider, told Ampatuan she was sending investigators to Maguindanao.
She could have told Ampatuan that he would have to surrender because there were witnesses linking him and his relatives to the dastardly act.
But GMA didn?t do that because the Ampatuans are her very close political allies in Maguindanao.
The Ampatuans have aces up their sleeves against her, according to the Palace insider.
You see, the Ampatuans are political kingpins in that part of Mindanao.
They are considered demigods by many of their followers.
In the 2004 presidential election, GMA?s rival Fernando Poe Jr., a movie actor known to his fans as ?FPJ,? got zero in many of the towns in Maguindanao.
There was no way cheating did not take place in the province in the 2004 elections as FPJ was idolized by the Muslims.
(An urban legend goes that when the character FPJ played died in a movie, the Muslims among the moviegoers went wild and would shoot up the screen. But we?re veering away from the story).
As a reward for their loyalty, Malacañang allegedly allowed the Ampatuans to go around with 50 or so armed bodyguards even outside their turf.
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Several years ago, Gov. Andal Ampatuan confronted me at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 for writing about his many bodyguards.
I had just alighted from a PAL plane from Puerto Princesa, while he came down from a plane from General Santos City.
As I was talking to him, I took note of his bodyguards, who were all in Army uniform and lugging either M-16 rifles or M-60 machine guns. I lost count after 30.
Fortunately, Ampatuan didn?t touch me, although I sensed he wanted to slap me, but I stepped back out of his reach.
I told the President?s husband, Mike Arroyo, who was then a very close friend, about the Naia 2 incident.
I asked Mr. Arroyo why Ampatuan was allowed to go around with so many armed bodyguards even in Metro Manila, which is outside his turf.
You know what Mike Arroyo told me?
?Pabayaan mo na siya, Mon, dahil atin ?yan (Don?t mind him because he?s ours).?
I told the President?s spouse there might come a time when the Ampatuans? abuse of power could explode in the President?s face.
The massacre in Maguindanao has made my words prophetic.