Thursday, November 26, 2009

After massacre, witness surfaces and implicates scion of powerful political clan in Mindanao

A government photo shows Presidential Adviser for Mindanao, Jesus Dureza, presents Mayor Datu Unsay Andal Ampatuan, Jr. to Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera upon arrival at the General Santos City airport. Ampatuan, who is accused of masterminding the killings of 57 people, mostly supporters of his political rival and journalists, surrendered Thursday, November 26, 2009 to Dureza in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao province to answer accusations against him. (Mindanao Examiner)

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / November 26, 2009) – An alleged witness to the brutal killings of 57 political campaigners and journalists has surfaced in the southern Philippines and implicated a scion of a powerful Muslim clan as behind the crime, Al Jazeera TV reported on Thursday.

It said the man who claimed to have witnessed Monday’s carnage in Maguindanao province told Al Jazeera how he was ordered to kill members of a rival political clan -including women and children - and to make sure no evidence was left behind.

Below was the story filed by Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, who traveled to the southern Philippines to cover the aftermath of the killings in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

The report can be accessed on this URL:

“The witness, who identified himself only as "Boy", said he was among more than 100 armed men who held up a convoy of political campaigners and journalists before taking them to a remote mountainous area where they were then killed.

Speaking to Al Jazeera's correspondent Marga Ortigas, "Boy" said the orders had come directly from Andal Ampatuan Jr., a local mayor and a member of a politically powerful local with close ties to the Philippines president.

"Datu Andal himself said, he said to us: anyone from the Mangudadatu clan - women or children - should be killed... We don't ask why, we just followed orders."

At least 57 people died in the massacre, believed to be the worst ever politically-related killings in the Philippines.

"Boy", who is now in hiding fearing his life is in danger, said all of the women in the group had been raped before being killed.

Their bodies were then dumped in mass graves that had already been dug out in advance using an excavator.

He said that Ampatuan Jr had also ordered that the reporters accompanying the convoy should also be killed to cover-up what had happened.
"That too was ordered by Datu Andal… because they didn't want any evidence left behind," he said.

"Boy" said the whole process had lasted little more than an hour before the gunmen had to abruptly abandon the scene following a warning that members of the military were nearby.

"We didn't get to finish, which is why the excavator was left there," he said. Someone called and said soldiers were on their way. I feel they have connections among the soldiers."

Speaking with his face covered to his identity, "Boy" said he was supposed to have been an active participant in the massacre but did not actually kill any of the victims.

He said he would have been shot if he had tried to intervene. "I was just standing there," he said "I was all alone… I could only leave it up to my conscience."

The Al Jazeera report cannot be independently confirmed and security officials would not talk about the allegations. And there was no immediate statement from the Ampatuan clan about the report, but the young Ampatuan surrendered to Presidential assistant for Mindanao affairs, Jesus Dureza, on Thursday and was brought to General Santos City before heading to Manila for more investigations about the accusations against him. (Mindanao Examiner)

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