DOJ chief: More massacre witnesses to surface

Posted at 11/28/09 1:00 PM

MANILA - Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said Saturday that at least two persons directly involved in the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao have executed their affidavits, detailing how the gruesome election-related crime was planned and consummated.

Devanadera told radio dzMM that one witness said he was present when the massacre was being planned while another witness said he was one of the at least 100 gunmen who massacred more than 60 people in Ampatuan town on Monday.

She said the witnesses have been brought to General Santos City, where prosecutors were processing their application for the government's Witness Protection Program.

"They really saw [how the crime was planned and committed]. This is the new development in the case's investigations," Devanadera said, adding that more than 20 witnesses have approached police investigators and prosecutors since the arrest Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in the massacre.

She said she is expecting more people directly involved in the massacre to come forward and stand as witness against members of powerful political clan of the Ampatuans.

“Mayroong witness na magpapatunay na bago mangyari ito kasama sila, nandoon sila sa lugar na nagbibigay ng instruction itong mga Ampatuan kung ano ang gagawin (We have a witness who can prove that before the this happened, he was in a place where the Ampatuans were giving instructions of the massacre),” Devanadera said.

ABS-CBN witness

The justice secretary, meanwhile, said they will also invite, through, ABS-CBN News, another witness who claimed he knew were the Ampatuan clan was hiding the firearms possibly used in the massacre.

The witness, a government employee, said he would be willing to testify in the government investigation in exchange for protection for himself and his family.

"All of the firearms are in their mansion. The guns that were confiscated were not the ones used [in the massacre]. Those guns are already old. What's worse is that the guns and ammunition were purchased from the Armed Forces. The issued firearms are long firearms coming from the Philippine National Police provincial command. Those people were killed using guns and ammo from the government," he said.

Devanadera said they would evaluate the witness’s statement and compare it with the others before actually taking him in for protective custody.

She said several Maguindanao residents have also been sending their prosecutors text messages about details of the massacre.

The justice secretary assured that the identities those who would be willing to help the government’s investigation on the massacre would not be revealed for their protection.

More arrests, charges

Devanadera said more arrests will be made as soon as the police investigators have finished their investigation into the supposed involvement of other Ampatuans in the crime.

“We are taking steps towards that (arrest of the other Ampatuans),” she said, adding that they would have to build strong cases against the members of the powerful clan before making arrests.

The justice secretary had said that eight more members of the Ampatuan clan are being considered as suspects in the massacre. They were Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, Nords Ampatuan, Maguindanao acting Vice-Gov. Akmad Ampatuan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Saudi Ampatuan Jr., Bahnarian Ampatuan, Sajid Islam Ampatuan, and Akmad Tato Ampatuan Sr.

Devanadera said they will initially file 7 counts of murder against Ampatuan Jr. on Tuesday in Cotabato City.

She said they will immediately amend the charge sheet against the mayor as soon as the families of the victims have acquired death certificates.

She said the families of the massacre’s victims are having difficulty acquiring death certificates because the local civil registrar’s office in Maguindanao was suspiciously closed.

Devanadera said the Ampatuan clan members had varying degrees of participation before, during and after the carnage, based on witness accounts.

Reports said the massacre's motive was to prevent the filing of certificate of candidacy of Genalyn Mangudadatu on behalf of her husband, Buluan town Vice-Mayor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu.

The vice-mayor's wife, his two sisters and more than 20 journalists were among those massacred.