Saturday, November 28, 2009

After 57 deaths, no suspects

PNP awaits complaints from kin

BY RAYMOND AFRICA

ELEVEN more bodies were found yesterday in a village in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, bringing to 57 the number of fatalities in the Monday massacre which is being blamed on the Ampatuan clan.

The fatalities – 35 men and 22 women -- included at least 16 media men invited by the rival Mangudadatu clan.

There were four survivors, according to Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, and the PNP is requesting him to present them because it said it still has no "suspect."

The Mangudadatus were on their way Monday to the Shariff Aguak capitol to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael, vice mayor of Buluan town who is running for governor, when their convoy was stopped by about 100 armed men in Saniag village.

The armed men then herded them to the remote hillside village of Salman in the same town, where they were killed with M-16 rifles and machetes.

Authorities have yet to establish the exact number of persons in the convoy, with initial reports placing it at 60.

Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, PNP spokesman, said Esmael told police investigators he would present the survivors "at the proper time."

He said it would be best for Esmael to let police investigators get the statements of the four supposed because the police "technically" have no suspects yet.

He said the PNP is waiting for Esmael to file a formal complaint.

"We have set of suspects being named by the vice mayor but he has not yet put that in writing. Mahirap yung sinabi nga niya pero baka bandang huli ay ayaw naman niyang pirmahan ang reklamo. Dapat i-formalize niya," he said.

Espina said the CIDG has sent a formal invitation to the Ampatuans.

He said the police have been coordinating with the Mangudadatus. "Please give us your witnesses. Meron pala kayong witnesses diyan pero ayaw bigay sa amin agad. Kung ibigay kunwari to other investigating agencies, for example DOJ, eh di sana natapos na yun. Meron na kaming pinangangalanan ngayon," Espina said.

Pressed as to why the police could not act against the Ampatuans amid the insistence of the Mangudadatus that its rival clan was behind the massacre, Espina said, "Mas maganda na si vice mayor ay i-formalize yung complaint laban sa sino man."

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said there is yet no direct evidence linking the Ampatuan clan to the massacre.

Devanadera, Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño and a panel of prosecutors were in Koronadal City to personally supervise the investigation and conduct of autopsy on victims, through the help of medico legal teams from the National Bureau of Investigation.

She said the DOJ and the NBI are still in the process of gathering information from witnesses.

"We have to verify that. Kaya kami nagpunta dito ay dahil sa ganyang reports, gusto naming ma-validate. And also gusto naming makita talaga ang mga ebidensyang nakalap," she said.

Espina said as of now, the four policemen relieved from their posts are the only ones under investigation.

They are Senior Supt. Abusana Maguid, Maguindanao police chief; Chief Insp. Sukarno Dicay, the assistant provincial police chief; Insp. Diongon; and SPO2 Baccal.

Dicay, Diongon, and Baccal were reportedly seen at the crime scene. Maguid was booted out due to command responsibility.

Espina said CIDG Director Raul Castañeda is gathering the statements of the first responders to the massacre.

He said Chief Supt. Paisal Umpa, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, will also be investigated by the CIDG.

He said Umpa will be investigated after reports came out that he turned down the request of Esmael for him to provide police escorts to the convoy.

"Ano ba ang naging action nila nung tumawag na raw yung asawa ni vice mayor na humingi sila ng tulong? Bakti hindi sila gumawa ng aksiyon from the time they received the call? Kasi dapat may immediate action," Espina said.

Esmael on Monday said that after his wife’s telephone call, he called the Maguindanao provincial police director to inform him of the incident. He quoted the police official as saying, "Hindi ko alam yan, wala kaming pakialam diyan."

Esmael’s wife, Genalyn Tiamson-Mangudadatu, was among the fatalities.

Espina said the policemen will be also investigated as to why they did not do anything when the name of Andal Ampatuan Jr., mayor of Datu Unsay town, was being implicated in the crime.

Esmael on Monday said that in their last phone conversation, his wife named Andal Ampatuan Jr. as one of those who blocked their convoy, and that he was acting on orders of his father, Andal Sr., Maguindanao governor.

The conversation of Mangudadatu with his wife lasted for only 15 seconds.

Supt. Arthur Llamas, of the PNP Legal Service, said Esmael’s last conversation "is very vital in the investigation."

But, he said, Esmael "will just have to prove that the conversation really happened."

SLOW PROBE

Esmael expressed frustration over the "slow" investigation and the absence of any arrest.

"I am not satisfied," he said.

He belied the military’s statement that pursuit operations are being conducted.

"There is no pursuit happening because you know it’s Andal," he said referring to the Andal Sr. "We all know Andal, who he is and what he is. He is so strong with the government...What I can say is that the Ampatuans have committed a lot of wrongdoings," he said.

Esmael said it is very clear the Ampatuans were behind the kidnapping and execution of his family members and the media men.

He noted the backhoe owned by the town government that was used to dig the graves of some of the victims.

"I call it a mute witness because it’s a heavy equipment, it cannot speak, but that is a very clear indication that the Ampatuans were the ones who instigated the perpetrators," he said.

Earlier, Mangudadatu’s brother, Madasser, and the military revealed that Andal Jr. was among those who intercepted the group. They suspects were with a group of policemen, police auxiliaries, and government militiamen.

PURSUIT OPERATIONS

The AFP belied Esmael’s statement there is no pursuit operation.

"How will he know since the operations are in the mountains," said Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., chief of the AFP public affairs office.

He said at least two companies are directly involved in the pursuit operations and several other companies are manning a cordon to prevent the suspects from escaping.

Subject of the pursuit is the 100-man group which waylaid the Mangudadatus’ convoy.

"We know their general area…Our pursuit operations are ongoing. We have also established blocking positions. They are there, I talked with the battalion commander and he has two companies pursuing them," said Brawner.

He said the Army’s 46th Infantry Battalion was returned to Maguindanao yesterday. The battalion was sent off by the Army’s 6th Infantry Division to Samar Monday before the kidnapping.
He said the 46th IB is backed up by armor assets. The Air Force, he said, has also alerted four of their helicopter gunships.

Brawner said the arrival of the 46th IB increased to three the total number of battalions operating in the province. A battalion is composed of about 500 officers and men.

CAFGU GROUPS DISBANDED

The Armed Forces has disbanded the two companies of Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA) in Maguindanao which were initially linked to the massacre.

A company is composed of about 120 men.

Brawner said the SCAAs were formed last year on the request of the Ampatuans as "incumbent" local chief executives amid threats posed by rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The military had issued these Cafgus with M14 and Garand rifles.

Initial reports said the SCAAs were with Maguindanao policemen and police auxiliaries who intercepted members of the Mangungudatu political clan and mediamen in Ampatuan town. The victims were later executed.

Brawner said the SCAA in Maguindanao is under the administrative control of the local officials. Nevertheless, he said the SCAAs are professional and doubted if they are being used by the Ampatuans as goons.

GOV’T AFRAID?

Esmael said his wife and relatives had no other intention in going to the provincial capitol in Sharif Aguak town, where the local Commission on Elections is situated, but to file his certificate of candidacy.

"It’s clear that my opponents are the Ampatuans but why is it they are not being pursued?" said Mangudadatu, noting that in other cases, law enforcers would immediately detain and even beat an ordinary suspect.

"Now, a big fish committed a crime that is gruesome to the world. How come they are not arrested? Is the government afraid (of the Ampatuans)?" asked Esmael.

Told of the military’s statement that at least two battalions are pursuing the suspects, Esmael said: "They deployed (troops) but there are no movements. They are not going arrest them. Why? Is it because they (Ampatuans) are moneyed, that’s why they cannot be arrested."

"The military should not be slow. Please tell the military not to be slow," he said but added he was not accusing the military of conniving with the Ampatuans.

MUTILATION

Esmael described the Ampatuans as "monsters."
He said his wife was not only shot in the mouth. He said her eyes were pierced, her breasts also shot, her legs were mutilated, and her private part slashed four times.

"This is not done by animals. I don’t know the term that should be used...I cannot call the Ampatuans animals because I take care of animals which I tamed. The term there is not an animal, they are monsters," he said.

Esmael said his family would not retaliate against the Ampatuans and would instead let legal processes take their course. "

We are law-abiding citizens. We are not going to do anything. We are educated," he said.

Esmael’s uncle, Rep. Datu Pax Mangudadatu (Lakas-Kampi, Sultan Kudarat) sought a House inquiry.

"It is reported that the murder were perpetrated together with some members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and armed civilian personnel led by (Datu Unsay) Mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. whose power and influence in Maguindanao politics must be stopped," he said in a resolution.

At the Senate, Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Roxas II also filed a resolution expressing "the sense of the Senate condemning in the strongest possible terms the brutal and inhuman election-related massacre and carnage of innocent civilians in the Maguindanao province."

They also called for an inquiry.

`NO EVIDENCE OF RAPE’

Devanadera said there were "significant findings" of powder burns in the bodies of the victims.

"This is an indication that they were killed at close range. There were also slugs recovered that showed that the suspects used high-powered guns. But so far, there’s no evidence of rape or beheadings," Devanadera said.

She declined to answer queries whether investigators have witnesses in their custody who could identify the perpetrators.

"We still have nothing pointing to the Ampatuans as suspects or perpetrators... we are concentrating in gathering evidence for the filing of cases."

Devanadera said they are awaiting a formal report from the NBI.

Of the 57 bodies recovered, 24 are being autopsied by the NBI.

Lawyer Reynaldo Esmeralda, NBI Deputy Director for Technical

ARMY RESPONSE

The killers could have gotten away with the crime had Army soldiers not verified on time the information that nobody from the Mangudadatu convoy could reached by cellphone.

Sources said Maj. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, sent a chopper to check the area.

After seeing bodies, the chopper team radioed their colleagues who in turn went to the area to check.

Upon arrival of the Army troopers, the killers scampered in different directions, leaving five vehicles and 22 bodies they have yet to bury. The killers also left the government-owned backhoe behind.

"That was when the massacre was discovered, when the Army soldiers came in. They (killers) could have gotten away with the crime," one of the sources said.

Three vehicles – an L-300 van owned by UNTV, a Toyota Tamaraw FX, and a Toyota Vios – were also dug up in the area. – With Evangeline de Vera, Victor Reyes, Jocelyn Montemayor, Wendell Vigilia and JP Lopez
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http://www.malaya.com.ph/11262009/news1.html

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