Monday, January 25, 2010

Police order massive search for missing witness to Maguindanao massacre

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / January 25, 2010) – Police in the southern Philippines ordered a massive search for an officer – a probable key government witness to the brutal slaying of 57 people in Mindanao - who had gone missing from since last week, officials told the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner, on Monday.

Officials said Inspector Ariel Diongon left the main police headquarters in Camp Crame in Manila on January 21 and did not return since then.

Diongon, commander of the Maguindanao provincial police mobile group, has been in police custody since last year after the gruesome murders of 26 innocent civilians and at least 31 journalists accompanying a political caravan in the province on November 23.

A scion of the powerful political clan, Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Datu Unsay, allegedly led some 100 gunmen in the killings. Among those murdered were the wife and two sisters and supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, the vice mayor of Buluan town who is running for governor of Maguindanao – a position being held by the mayor’s father and namesake, Andal Ampatuan Sr. - in the May elections.

The Ampatuan and the Mangudadatu clans are bitter political foe in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, whose governor, Zaldy Ampatuan, is a brother of Andal Ampatuan Jr. All three politicians, including other clan members and supporters, had been arrested in connection with the killings. They denied involvement in the murders.

“We have ordered police forces to search for Diongon and take him in custody immediately if he returns to Mindanao. Diongon was last seen in Camp Crame on January 21,” said Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, of the Muslim autonomous region.

He said police is also verifying reports that Diongon – who could shed light into the killings – is in Iloilo province where he is to get marry. He said they tried call Diongon’s mobile phone, but it remained unanswered.

Macapantar said they have also coordinated with the police and other law enforcement agencies in General Santos City where Diongon is currently residing should he return home.

Six of Diongon’s policemen – who are also in restricted custody in Camp Crame - are all accounted, Macapantar said. “Diongon is the only one missing and the six others who also were reported missing also is all accounted.”It was unknown how Diongon was able to flee despite his restricted custody at the police headquarters. (Mindanao Examiner)

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