Saturday, November 28, 2009

Witnesses point to Andal Jr. as ‘commander’ in slaughter

11/27/2009 | 05:14 PM

Purported participants in the gruesome massacre in Maguindanao have pointed to Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. as ordering the slaughter of at least 57 people last Monday, with one witness saying the mayor shot at the victims himself.

Justice secretary Agnes Devanadera made the revelation in an interview over GMA News' Hirit Friday morning, hours before the Department of Justice (DOJ) was set to release its resolution on the inquest proceedings on the massacre.

When asked by GMA News' Arnold Clavio whether witnesses whom the department has talked to confirmed rumors that Andal Jr. shot at the victims himself, Devanadera said: "Dun sa isa, meron nasabing ganun. Dun sa isa talagang nag-uutos, talagang kumander, ganun."

(One witnesses said something like that [that Andal Jr. shot at the victims himself]. Another witness said he was really giving orders, really acting as commander.)

Devanadera said one witness in particular came to the DOJ because he was already too bothered by his conscience.

"Kasama siya sa grupo pero mukhang hindi nakabaril e sa dami nila (He was with the group, but it looked like he wasn't able to shoot at the victims because they were so many)," she said.

Devanadera said the witness' conscience nagged at him because he thought only the members of the Mangudadatu clan, the Ampatuans' political rival, would be shot.

"Akala niya Mangudadatus lang ang babarilin pero... it turned out na lahat-lahat (He thought only the Mangudadatus would be shot but it turned out that everyone would be killed)," Devanadera said. "Saka yung manner… of doing it, parang wala ka na sa kaisipan mo pagka ganun, grabe talaga (And the manner of doing it, no person in his or her right mind could have done something like that, that’s really heinous)."

The witness, one of an unspecified number that the DOJ is communicating with, is supposedly one of the more than 100 men ordered by Andal Jr. to kill the wife, two sisters, and supporters of Buluan town vice mayor Ismael "Toto" Mangudadatu.

Journalists and lawyers who were in the Mangudadatus' convoy, which was on its way to Shariff Aguak to file Toto's certificate of candidacy, were also killed. Andal Jr. is said to be being groomed by his father, Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., to succeed him in the gubernatorial post. [See: Map and timeline of Maguindanao massacre]

At least 57 have been found dead, many of them buried in three mass graves apparently dug by a government-owned backhoe, in Ampatuan town just at the outskirts of the provincial capital.

Some of the female victims’ pants were pulled down, said Devanadera, adding that the genitals of many of the women were shot. The Justice chief said they cannot rule out sexual assault yet as autopsy results are still pending.

"Alam mo naman ang tao e may tinatawag na threshold yan (We all know that each person has a certain threshold)," Devanadera said in explaining what may have made their witness come out and go against the Ampatuans, the most powerful political clan in Maguindanao.

"Hindi na siya makatulog e kasi di niya in-expect na talagang tutuluyan nang ganun (He cannot sleep anymore because he did not expect that everyone would be killed that way)," she added.

Devanadera said the witness' testimony was exactly like what another supposed witness interviewed by Al Jazeera said: that Andal Jr. orchestrated the massacre.

She said all witnesses' testimonies and evidence so far point to Andal Jr., and not to the group of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rogue commander Umbra Kato whom Andal Jr. claimed was behind the gruesome massacre. [See: Andal Jr. blames MILF for massacre]

"Wala naman kaming nakita doong Umbra Katong salaysay e (We did not see testimonies pointing to Umbra Kato)," she said.

The DOJ chief said prosecutors will likely come out with their resolution on the inquest proceedings conducted since Thursday, shortly after Andal Jr. turned himself over to authorities for investigation. But this early, Devanadera said they have a good case against Andal Jr., who is currently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila.

"Insofar as the mayor is concerned, at this point in time wala akong nakikitang rason bakit yan pwedeng makalabas (I don't see any reason why he can be released) with the kind of evidence we have," she said.

In a separate interview on dzRH radio, Devanadera said the DOJ has recommended to Malacañang to transfer all suspects in the massacre to a "special" detention facility as it may be dangerous to mix them with other inmates.

"Sa report ko kay Pangulo, naglagay ako ng recommendation that there should be a special place for all of them. Mahirap ihalo sa ibang preso at masyadong marami (In my report to the President, I recommended that there should be a special place for all of them. It will be hard to mix them up with other inmates since there may be too many of them)," Devanadera said.

Aside from Andal Jr., authorities have also rounded up some civilian volunteers believed to have been involved in the crime.

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