Misuari, Ampatuan grandsons among PNPA graduates
SILANG, Cavite—Irony of ironies.
An heir to the political clan whose patriarch and many of whose members are standing trial for the Nov. 23, 2009, Maguindanao massacre is joining the government as a law enforcer.
Cadet 1st Class Andal Ampatuan III gets his commission together with 246 cadets during graduation rites at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) here Thursday.
The 36th batch of PNPA graduates adopted the class name “Lakandula,” which means “Lahing kayumanggi na handang ialay sa bayan ang dugo at lakas” (Filipinos ready to serve and die for their country).
President Aquino is expected to address the commencement exercises of the PNPA Class of 2015 amid a political firestorm triggered by the deaths of 44 elite police commandos at the hands of Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.
Six of the slain Special Action Force (SAF) commandos were graduates of the PNPA.
While regrettable, the stigma that comes with Cadet Ampatuan’s name is rather expected.
His grandfather and namesake, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., is being held in a tightly guarded prison in Taguig City along with other clan members for the grisly murders of 57 people in the town named after their family.
Another namesake and uncle, Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., is also indicted for multiple murder over the killings, considered the worst political violence in Philippine history.
Among those killed were 32 journalists, making the incident the deadliest single-day attack on members of the press anywhere in the world.
The carnage sparked local and international outrage against the Ampatuans and then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the clan’s most powerful political ally.
Despite the accusations hurled against his family, his classmates and tactical officers in the PNPA vouch for Cadet Ampatuan’s good character.
“I have known Cadet Ampatuan since we were plebes. He is a good person and a kind, approachable and helpful classmate to all of us,” said Cadet 1st Class Dennis Yuson Jr., the class president and valedictorian.
“Even if there were issues against his family before he entered the academy, he was able to prove himself a good man. He is someone who can be trusted,” Yuson told the Inquirer.
But Ampatuan is not alone in proving his worth as a lakan (nobleman), the traditional honorific for male graduates of the 37-year-old police academy.
A classmate, Cadet 1st Class Mohammadizar Caluang Misuari, is a grandson of fugitive Moro National Liberation Front founding chair Nur Misuari, who went into hiding after the secessionist Moro rebels’ failed takeover of Zamboanga City in 2012.
Like Ampatuan, Yuson said Misuari never threw weight around to get special privileges from their instructors and fellow cadets.
“Although they belong to prominent families in Mindanao, they both treated us as equals. They deal with us just like how our other classmates treat us,” he said.
The Inquirer repeatedly asked the PNPA for an interview with Ampatuan and Misuari, but the leadership of the police academy did not grant the request.
Supervised by the Philippine Public Safety College, the PNPA is the primary training institution for commissioned officers in the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
Ampatuan and Misuari are among the 226 PNPA graduates who have chosen to join the 150,000-strong police organization. Ten of the graduates have opted to join the BJMP while 11 others have decided to serve in the BFP.
Chief Insp. Ritchie Yatar, the PNPA spokesperson and a tactical officer of Ampatuan and Misuari, described the two cadets as among the “average” members of their class.
“Like other cadets, they strictly observed the rules of the academy. They were ‘go and go’ during the training. They didn’t show attitude as cadets,” Yatar said.
Yatar said Ampatuan and Misuari were never cited for violence and maltreatment of lower-class cadets during their four-year stay in the
“But since the academy is a controlled environment, we can only judge Cadet Ampatuan once he becomes a full-fledged police officer,” Yatar said.
Yuson said the controversies besetting the PNP would be a daunting challenge for the latest police recruits, including him, in trying to win back the trust of the public.
“The problems and controversies in the PNP serve as a challenge for us graduating cadets to serve the Filipino people with utmost integrity and loyalty,” he said.
Chief Supt. Armando Ramolete, the PNPA director, said the graduation of Ampatuan and Misuari only proved the police academy’s diversity as a training and learning institution.
“Here in the academy, we do not discriminate against anybody. We don’t look at the surname of the cadets,” Ramolete said. “We only discriminate against those who have committed grave offenses and violated the rules of the academy.”
Ramolete said he was unaware that members of the Ampatuan and Misuari clans were among the graduating cadets until the Inquirer requested an interview.
He said he believes the academic and professional training that PNPA cadets had to hurdle would eventually prove their worth as police, jail and fire officers.
Performance, not name
Asked if the public and the families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre should be anxious about Ampatuan joining the PNP, Ramolete said, “I don’t think so.”
“As the saying goes, ‘I’m not my brother’s keeper.’ The people should judge him according to his performance. Whoever you are, you should not be judged for the wrongdoing of other people,” he said.
“[Ampatuan] should not be rated because of his family name. We should measure him by his performance as a cadet and future police officer,” he added.
Cadet Ampatuan is the son of the late Datu Piang town Mayor Saudi Ampatuan, a son of Andal Sr. who was killed in a bomb attack in December 2002.
Barely seven months after his death, a fourth-class municipality carved out of Datu Piang was named after Saudi Ampatuan.
Cadet Ampatuan’s older brother, Tahirodin Benzar, is the mayor of Mamasapano, a little-known town until Jan. 25, when a SAF mission to arrest three terrorists with links to the Southeast Asian terrorism group Jemaah Islamiyah went disastrously wrong, costing the lives of 44 police commandos, 17 Moro rebels and three civilians.
President Aquino said he would discuss the Mamasapano incident for the last time in his address to the graduating PNPA class Thursday.
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