Thursday, December 10, 2009

Security forces recover polls documents from Ampatuan mansion

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 10, 2009) – Philippine soldiers and policemen recovered over 3,000 voter’s identification cards while searching for illegal weapons at a mansion of powerful political clan linked to the gruesome murders of 57 people in the southern province of Maguindanao, officials said.

Officials said the identification cards and other elections materials were partially burned when recovered Wednesday from the sprawling housing compound of Anwar Ampatuan, the mayor of Shariff Aguak town, whose father and brothers and himself were implicated in the November 23 massacre of 57 people.

Among those killed were at least 30 journalists and wife and relatives and supporters of rival politician Esmael Mangudadatu, the vice mayor of Buluan town, who is a candidate for governor in Maguindanao, which is currently being held by Andal Ampatuan Snr.

"Obviously they were trying to burn these (documents). I these are all original (documents), but nonetheless we have called up the SOCO (scene of crime officers) to determine if they are original. These are important (elections paraphernalia) and I don’t know why we all these here,” Senior Superintendent Alfonso Pagkaliwanagan, the commander of the regional police force, told a television interview.

The documents had markings “Commission on Elections” and “Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.”

Maguindanao is one of five provinces under the impoverished Muslim autonomous region, whose governor Zaldy Ampatuan, and father Andal Ampatuan Snr, the governor of Maguindanao, and other clan members, including the alleged mastermind in the killings, Andal Ampatuan Jnr, who is the mayor Datu Unsay town, are among those accused in the mass murders. They denied all the accusations against them.

On Thursday, the regional vice governor, Ansaruddin Adiong, formally took over Zaldy Ampatuan - who was charged with rebellion along with his father and other clan members - as the new Muslim autonomous region governor.

Lawyer Leila de Lima, head of the Commission on Human Rights, said the clan may have committed other atrocities in Maguindanao and is investigating at least 200 other brutal murders, including the burying of a whole family alive and chainsaw killings.

"Everybody was aware (of the killings), but they have been tolerated. That is why we want full accountability now. The years of tolerance and neglect are over," she told the ABS-CBN television.

She said at least 5 policemen and civilians are willing to stand witness to the alleged crimes of the Ampatuans. She said the witnesses have also revealed that there are at least 2 more killing fields in Maguindanao where victims of extrajudicial killings were buried. (Mindanao Examiner)

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