Andal Ampatuan Sr., patriarch of the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao province and suspect in the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history, died on the night of July 17, 2015, his lawyer said.
“It saddens me to inform the public that former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. has passed away just a few minutes ago,” lawyer Ferdinand Topacio told GMA News Online in an interview.
“Details regarding the death are sketchy at the moment,” Topacio added.
Andal Sr., who had been comatose at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute since Monday after suffering a heart attack, had been battling advanced stage liver cancer.
He was 74 years old.
Bai Mayan Sinsuat, an in-law of the Ampatuan patriarch, also confirmed the death.
Topacio said doctors at the NKTI will announce time and cause of death. He added he also cannot tell, for privacy reasons, who was with the patriarch during his last moments.
The Ampatuans allegedly orchestrated the slaughter of 58 people in their area in November 2009, in an attempt to stop a rival clan’s election challenge.
The brutal massacre, one of the world’s deadliest attacks against media workers, saw some shot in their genitals before they were buried in a hilltop grave using an excavator.
The brazenness of the murders shocked the world and reinforced perceptions of a culture of impunity in the Philippines, where the powerful believe they can commit serious crimes and escape unpunished.
The trial has moved excruciatingly slowly, with allegations of bribery, potential witnesses being killed or threatened, and delaying maneuvers by the clan’s lawyers.
Many of the victims’ widows have been left struggling, their children forced to drop out of school due to poverty.
“I wish that he was able to seek forgiveness in his death bed,” said Reynafe Momay, daughter of a photojournalist, one of 32 press workers murdered.
“He should have apologized to his victims. I pity his family who lost him. I am not happy he died.”
Despite the death, the widows of the Maguindanao Massacre expressed their refusal to forgive Andal Sr.
“I could not forgive him because he has shown no remorse, and the fact that the case has dragged adds to our pain,” said Gloria Teodoro, whose newspaper reporter husband died in the carnage.
“When I saw news of his death today, it was mixed emotions. I was happy that he’s dead, but sad because we have not gotten justice,” the 46-year-old widow told AFP.
Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, while expressing his condolences over his rival’s death, declared that the case against the Ampatuan will still continue.
It was reported that before he succumbed to his condition, Andal Sr. maintained his innocence over the massacre, claiming he was framed.
Andal Sr. was in politics for decades. He was vice mayor of Maganoy town (now called Shariff Aguak) before the People Power Revolution in 1986. After the revolution, he was appointed acting mayor of the town. In 1998, he ran and won as governor of Maguindanao province.
He was buried in accordance to Islamic traditions at the compound of the Ampatuan Mansion, in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.