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Maguindanao massacre claims at least 36 lives

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Old 11-11-2010, 12:32 AM
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Angry Re: Maguindanao massacre claims at least 36 lives

40 of 57 Maguindanao massacre victims killed by Ampatuan Jr.

By Jason Gutierrez, Tetch Torres
Agence France-Presse, INQUIRER.net
First Posted 18:20:00 11/10/2010

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE 2) About 40 of the 57 victims in the country’s worst political massacre were killed by Andal Ampatuan Jr., his former aide told the court Wednesday.

Ampatuan ordered the victims to form a line then used two assault rifles to shoot them, said Police Officer 1 Rainier Ebus, who described himself as a bodyguard of the former Datu Unsay mayor.

"In one of the vehicles, he ordered the passengers to alight and line up, after that, he shot them," said Ebus, the first prosecution witness to testify that he saw the actual killings being carried out.

He said Ampatuan first used an M16 and later a K3 assault rifles, adding that his uncle, Datu Kanor Ampatuan, eventually joined him in killing the victims.

The Ampatuan clan allegedly orchestrated the killings to stop a rival from challenging Ampatuan Jr. for the post of governor of Maguindanao, one of the country's poorest province and which his family had ruled for a decade.

Apart from Ampatuan Jr., five other clan members are among 196 people, including the clan patriarch and his namesake, facing charges over the November 23, 2009 murders.

The victims, who included journalists and passing motorists, were allegedly stopped at a roadblock manned by Ampatuan's relatives and armed followers.

Ebus testified he himself drove one of the vehicles that took the victims to a grassy hilltop where many of them were later found buried in mass graves.

After Ampatuan Jr. killed the first few victims, Ebus said, those who were still alive inside the vehicles, including women, cried and begged for mercy.

"They were all shouting and then they were shot by Unsay," the police officer said, referring to the main defendant's nickname.

"Two men tried to escape by jumping from the windows, but they were chased. One was shot by a police officer, another by a militiaman."

Asked how many victims he saw Ampatuan Jr. allegedly kill, Ebus said: "More or less 40."

Most of the remainder were killed by two Ampatuan relatives and their armed followers, the witness said.

Ebus said he hid inside one of the vehicles as the killings were being carried out, powerless to stop the carnage.

"I was afraid. He (Ampatuan Jr.) is a very powerful man. He has plenty of money. He owns ammunition and guns. He is capable of murdering people," Ebus said.

Ebus said he was also with Ampatuan Jr. and members of his security force at the roadblock where, he said, local police helped stop a convoy of vehicles carrying the victims.

Three other witnesses earlier testified that the Ampatuans planned the murders days in advance, and had tried to cover up the crime shortly after.

Of the 196 accused, only 81 have been arrested, including six Ampatuan clan leaders, with the rest still at large, court records show.

A day after the mass killing, Ebus said he met with Ampatuan Jr. and his men in one of the mountainous areas in Maguindanao where Ampatuan Jr. told them that "Hindi muna tayo magkikita kita (We would not see each other for the moment)."

Ebus, one of the four accused that the government wants to turn into a state witness, said he was also ordered by Ampatuan Jr. to hide all unlicensed firearms.

He said the high powered rifles of the Ampatuans have letter orders issued by former Maguindanao Chief of Police Sukarno Dicay, also one of the principal accused. He noted that the letter orders should have been issued by highest officials of the Philippine National Police.

Nearly a year after the killings, just 50 of those in detention are on trial.

Twenty-eight detained suspects Wednesday joined defendants on trial appearing in court in handcuffs to hear the murder charges read against them.

The 28, mostly Maguindanao policemen, pleaded not guilty before Ebus took to the witness stand.

Harry Roque, a lawyer representing the families of some victims, voiced concern over the slow pace of the proceedings.

"At least a third of the suspects have now been (put on trial), that is the good news," Roque told reporters outside the courtroom.

"The bad news is that we do not know when the others will be in court. In any case, the (trial) today will send a clear message to police officers not to be involved in any crimes."

The trial is widely expected to last months, or even years, in the country's notoriously slow justice system, with prosecutors and relatives of the victims already expressing frustration.

There are also fears about the clan's residual influence, despite their leaders being jail.
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:14 PM
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Default Re: Maguindanao massacre claims at least 36 lives

Ampatuans held ‘coverup’ meeting a day after massacre, says witness


A day after the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao on November 23 last year, members and supporters of the Ampatuan clan allegedly gathered in a meeting to discuss how to cover up the grisly crime.

This was according to Noh Akil, a councilman of Barangay Salman, who claims he not only witnessed how policemen and militiamen set up a checkpoint at Sitio Malating prior to the massacre but also was invited to the November 24 meeting at an Ampatuan residence in Shariff Aguak, the provincial capital.

Sitio Masalay, where the Mangudadatu clan’s convoy was blocked, and Sitio Malating, where the actual mass killing took place, are both part of Barangay Salman, in Ampatuan town just outside the provincial capital.

In his testimony before the Quezon City Trial Court on Wednesday, Akil said that prior to the killings, he saw a number of armed men guard the Malating checkpoint from November 20 to 23. He said he saw the group’s movement because he lived near the checkpoint.

On the morning of November 23, one of the armed men warned him and his family to flee from the area if they did not want to get into trouble.

Akil said he instructed his children to ride a tricycle to the poblacion (municipal center), while he and his wife sought refuge at a near camp of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), located around 350 to 400 meters away from the checkpoint.

He said he did not see the massacre itself, but claimed he heard firing that lasted between 20 to 30 minutes. He also claimed to have seen a prime mover (a heavy vehicle designed to transport other bulky vehicle) carrying a backhoe driving toward the crime scene around noontime.

A day after the killings, Akil and his wife returned to their residence. Not too long later, Akil said, he was fetched by men aboard a Toyota Hi-Lux van and brought to an Ampatuan mansion in Shariff Aguak.

There, he claimed having seen then Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay and Inspector Ariel Rex Diongon, both among the 196 currently accused in the multiple murder case that stemmed from the Ampatuan massacre.

Akil also listed the following as among those present at the meeting: Maguindanao officer-in-charge Gov. Sajid Ampatuan, son of the clan patriarch Andal Sr. and co-accused in the case; Cynthia Sayadi, lawyer of Sajid's brother, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan; and then Maguindanao provincial administrator Nori Unas, who is known as the “right-hand man" of Andal Sr. and principal accused Andal Jr.

Akil said Dicay approached him and instructed him to tell the authorities that he did not see the policemen and militiamen and that he returned to his home at around 11 a.m. of November 23.

According to Akil, another agenda for the meeting was how to explain to authorities why the backhoe, which was found abandoned at the crime site, was there in the first place.

Akil said one of the men present at the meeting, whom he described as "dark-skinned," suggested that they tell authorities the backhoe had been at the site for the past six days.

But Sayadi allegedly shot down the suggestion and replied: "Hindi pa puwede dahil hindi pa tayo nag-scrape [That can’t be because we haven’t scraped yet]."

Nena Santos, legal counsel for now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, later explained to reporters that "scrape" meant that the Ampatuans wanted to make it appear that the backhoe was being used for a non-existent road pavement project in the area, and thus avoid suspicion that it was used for the crime.

During the November 24 meeting, Akil also said Sajid approached him, tapped him on the left shoulder, and allegedly slipped P2,000 into his breast pocket so he could buy fish for his family.

Akil also said in court that he paid a price for deciding to testify against the Ampatuans. On January 29, a day after he became known as one of the witnesses the prosecution was planning to present, armed men burned down his house in Sitio Masalay.

After Akil's testimony, defense lawyers agreed to reserve their cross examination during the next hearing on Thursday.

Waiver of appearance

Andal Jr. did not show up during Wednesday's hearing, after Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes approved on November 30 his camp's move to waive his right to appear in the proceedings.

In a request filed before the sala of the Quezon City judge, Andal Jr.'s lawyer Sigfrid Fortun said his client no longer needs to be present in the hearings because they have already long stipulated that the former mayor who is called Datu Unsay by witnesses in their respective testimonies was his client.

Santos said the defense's stipulation could only work against Andal Jr. "Ibig sabihin, inaamin nila na si Datu Unsay ay naandito sa ganitong lugar at sa ganitong oras," she said. (This means they are admitting that Datu Unsay was here in this specific place at this specific time.)

"So bakit ka pa magko-cross examine kung inaamin mong ang kliyente mo ay nandoon sa area?" she added. (So why do you still need to cross-examine, when you have already admitted that your client was there in the area?)—JV, GMANews.TV
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