Witness recalls massacre planning, execution

09/09/2010 - A LONG-time house helper of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao said Wednesday that Andal Ampatuan Jr. wanted everyone in the convoy of their political rival, the Mangudadatu family, be executed.

At the first day of the formal trial of the case, Lakmudin Saliao told the court that he was present at a meeting where Andal Jr. broached the idea of killing Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and everyone in his party.

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The plan will be executed when Mangudadatu files his certificate of candidacy (COC) as governor of Maguindanao in the 2010 elections.

Saliao, the first witness presented by the prosecution, said the meeting was held at the mansion of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. on November 17, 2009.

He said that among those who attended the meeting, aside from Andal Sr. and Andal Jr., were then Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Sajid Islam Ampatuan, Akmad Ampatuan, Anwar Ampatuan, Datu Digo Mamalapat, Datu Ulo Ampatuanm Yassir Ampatuan, Amira Ampatuan, Alex Tomaois, and Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas, Tamano Mamalapat.

Saliao quoted Andal Sr. saying during the gathering, "Kaya tayo nandito lahat ay para pag-usapan paano pigilin si Toto sa pag-file ng COC sa Maguindanao," to which Andal Jr. accordingly replied, "Madali lang yan, Ama, patayin sila lahat pag pumunta dito.”

Under questioning from prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, Saliao heard Zaldy said: “Kung yan mapag-usapan, kailangang pagplanuhan mabuti para di tayo mabisto.”

Akmad added: “Pakinggan natin si Ama, okay kami lahat na patayin sila,” according to the witness.

The patriarch then told Andal Jr. to personally lead in blocking the convoy.

“Pagkatapos nun nagsipagtayuan ang mga tao at sinabi okay kami na patayin sila lahat,” Saliao told the court.

He narrated another meeting was held on November 22, 2009 in an Ampatuan farm in Barangay Baghong in Shariff Aguak town.

In the second meeting, Saliao quoted Zaldy saying, “Iyan na ang pinal na desisyon, patayin sila lahat. Pupunta ako ng Manila para di tayo mahalata, magtawagan na lang tayo.”

On the day of the massacre, November 23, the witness said he, Andal Sr., and a certain Kagi Luminda proceeded to Barangay Baghong where they received a call from Andal Jr.

Saliao recalled the conversation:

“Andito na sila Ama,” said Ampatuan Jr.

“Andyan ba si Toto?” asked the older Ampatuan.

“Wala, ama. Asawa at kapatid na babae lang si Bai Eden,” said the younger Ampatuan.

“Alam mo na ang gagawin mo. Patayin mo na sila lahat. Itabi mo lang ang media,” the father said.

“Hindi. Lubus-lubusin na natin. Makakapagsalita pa kundi natin uubusin,” the son said.

A day after the massacre, Saliao said he accompanied Andal Sr. to the Shariff Aguak farm where the latter talked to Congressman Didagen Dilangalen and lawyer Cynthia Sayading for the surrender of Andal Jr.

Saliao said Andal Sr. insisted, “Ibibigay lang si Andal Jr. sa pangangalaga ni Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo” to which Dilangalen answered “Gagawin namin ang lahat na matulungan si Jr.”

The witness added he was ordered by Andal Sr. to call Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza where the patriarch told the latter he would give up Andal Jr. if he would be taken under the care of Arroyo.

Three days after the massacre, Andal Jr. surrendered to Dureza at the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak.

Prosecution lauds testimony

Andal Jr., wearing a yellow prison shirt, sat impassively behind his lawyers as Saliao narrated his testimony for more than two hours.

Mangudadatu’s counsel Nena Santos said the testimony of Saliao is just the start of his revelation that would serve as the “smoking gun” against the suspects.

“You heard the witness’ direct testimony. I need not say anymore,” Santos said in an interview after the hearing.

On the other hand, Harry Roque, who served as counsel of 13 of the victims’ families, expressed elation at the testimony, citing it was the first time that Andal Sr. and Zaldy was directly linked to the crime.

“It is very important that the witness narrated the participation of Zaldy and Andal Sr. because until today, they have a petition that they are not involved in the crime,” Roque said.

Widows speak

The victims’ families also said they are happy on the start of the trial proper.

“Masaya ako kahit na nasasaktan sa nangyari. Nabuhay ang katawan ko ng marinig ko ang testimonya. Naniniwala kami sa witness dahil malapit sya ki Andal Sr,” said Editha Tiamzon, widow of UNTV crewmember Daniel Tiamzon who was one of those killed.

Noemi Parcon, widow of Prontiera News’ Joel Parcon, said with the Aquino administration, they are confident of winning justice for their slain relatives.

“May tiwala kami kay Pangulong Noynoy at Secretary De Lima na makakamtan namin ang hustisya at mapapadali ang takbo ng hustisya,” Parcon said.

The court sets the continuation of Saliao’s testimony on September 15.

Wednesday’s hearing covered only Andal Jr. and 16 other accused since Andal Sr. and the rest of the suspects in custody are yet to be arraigned in court.

About 197 individuals are listed on the multiple murder case’s charge sheet though only more than 60 are currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

The Ampatuans ruled the restive Maguindanao province for nearly a decade under the patronage of the then Arroyo administration. (Sun Star)

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