Friday, June 25, 2010

US condemns murder of key witness in Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 25, 2010) – The United States on Friday condemned the murder of a key witness in last year’s brutal slaying of 57 people in the southern Philippines.

Assassin had shot Suwaib Upham last week in the town of Parang in Maguindanao province whose governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons were linked by authorities to the November 23 killings.

Among those killed were at least 32 journalists accompanying the political caravan of Esmael Mangudadatu, a political foe of the Ampatuan clan. His wife and sisters and supporters were also murdered.

Upham was one of those accused in the grisly slayings, but he turned against the powerful Ampatuan clan for fear that he would also be killed after some of those involved were murdered one after the other.

“I deplore the murder of Mr. Suwaib Upham, who bravely came forward to testify about the tragic Maguindanao massacre. I urge the Philippine authorities to conduct a swift investigation into his death and bring those responsible to justice,” said US Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for Upham’s murder, but Thomas urged Manila to investigate the killing.

“This murder adds additional urgency to the need for swift investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the brutal massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao in November 2009. Too many families still wait justice, and now the Upham family joins them,” Thomas said.

Nearly 200 people had been charged in the murders, including Datu Unsay town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., one of the prime suspects; and his elder brother, Zaldy Ampatuan, the governor of the Muslim autonomous region, among other clan members.

About one-third of those accused are now locked- up in jail, including the clan’s patriarch and his sons, but they still enjoy special treatment in prisons because of their immense wealth and influence.

Just recently, another witness to the murders, Lakmodin Saliao, an aide of the clan’s patriarch, surfaced and implicated the Ampatuans. (Mindanao Examiner)

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