Ampatuan nephew now heads MILF camp?

Posted at 11/19/2012 6:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines – A nephew of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. is allegedly coddling suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre after he became the new commander of the 106th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said he has information that Datu Itim Ampatuan, a nephew of Andal Sr., took over the 106th Base Command after the death of Musanip Solaiman alias Commander Adan.

“According to our source, lumalabas na na-coddle niya yung other suspects, itong sila Banerin Ampatuan at iba pang Ampatuans na sangkot sa massacre na yan. I’m not telling that the MILF is coddling. It’s Datu Itim Ampatuan who coddles, na naging base commander ngayon ng 106,” he told reporters in Camp Crame.

Mangudadatu, who lost his wife and 2 sisters in the massacre, said he is still verifying the information from his source. He said many of the remaining suspects are roaming the municipalities of Mamasapano, Sultan sa Barongis, Shariff Aguak and Rajah Buayan in Maguindanao, which is being controlled by the MILF.

The governor said the historic signing of the Framework Agreement to establish a Bangsamoro in Mindanao could also help in the ongoing hunt for 92 at-large suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

He said that initially, authorities were very careful in searching for the 195 suspects linked to the massacre for fear of disrupting the peace talks. One hundred three of the 195 suspects have already been arrested.

A total of 58 victims were killed in the November 2009 massacre, allegedly at the hands of the police, militiamen and members of the powerful Ampatuan clan. The massacre is considered the worst case of election-related violence in the country's history.

Col. Keith Singian, Commander of Task Force Maguindanao, said authorities have received unverified information that some of the suspects could be hiding in areas controlled by the MILF or the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to escape prosecution.

He said the task force is aiming to forge cooperation with the MILF leadership to bring the malefactors to justice.

He also asked the media, including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, to help in the search for the suspects.

"We still have at-large suspects where we do not have pictures or we haven't identified the individuals...Hindi natin alam kung sino sila talaga kasi some of these suspecys have assumed names. Nagbago ng mga pangalan at meron kaming mistaken identity," he said, noting that some Muslims have the same names.

For his part, Mangudadatu said nephews of the Ampatuan patriarch have their own private armies, which makes it harder for authorities to search for the suspects.