Police, kin continue search for bodies from Ampatuan massacre

Posted at 01/03/10 7:06 PM

MANILA, Philipines - Police, military, representatives of the Commission on Human Rights, members of media organizations and relatives of a missing journalist went to a suspected grave site Sunday morning in Maguindanao province where 2 bodies from the Ampatuan massacre were allegedly buried.

It was past 7 a.m. Sunday when the officials, together with relatives of missing journalist Reynaldo Momay of Midland Review, went to the alleged grave site in Sitio Kateb in Barangay Old Maganoy in Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao.

Police said that information was received by the Datu Abdullah Sangki police station last December 28 that bodies were buried at the area. The police station reportedly immediately sent probers to the site but put off digging since it was already dark when they arrived.

Superintendent Felicissimo Khu, Joint Task Force 12-Alpha Commander, said an informant gave a report that persons were buried in the area.

"A barangay official told us that there were bodies buried here...December 28 the PNP [Philippine National Police] immediately went to the area,' said Khu.

Aside from Momay, police said they were also looking for the remains of Hamid Dilayudin, tagged as the operator of the backhoe which was used to cover some of the remains of the bodies, as well as vehicles, of those killed in the gruesome massacre in Ampatuan town last November 23. At least 57 people were killed in the brazen election-related massacre, including members of a rival clan of the Ampatuans, lawyers and at least 30 journalists.

Dilayudin is suspected to have been killed after the massacre to silence him.

“Foul odor”

Police, as well as the military, returned Sunday morning to the suspected burial site.

The group walked 2 kilometers past cornfields and a creek. Among them were members of Scene-of-the-Crime Operation (SOCO) as well as dogs from the police K9 unit.

Upon reaching the reported site, a pile of soil was found with markings of coconut seedlings in each corner. A yellow water container was found on top of the pile.

Police investigators immediately cordoned off the area and started digging. After two hours, no remains were found.

Police said, however, that they believe that the bodies are just there somewhere citing a distinct odor of decaying bodies.

The Momay family also brought with them Rene Espinosa, a paranormal investigator.

Espinosa said that vibrations that he “felt” indicate that there are 2 bodies buried in the area.

Authorities continued searching the area to no avail, however.

Espinosa assured the Momays that he will not stop searching to help the family who have been looking for the journalist’s body for 43 days already.

Although unsuccessful at finding the remains of their love one, the Momay family also said that they would continue to search for his body.

"Before ako pumunta dito, na-set ko na ang mind ko na 50/50 ang chance na mkaita ko ang papang ko... Hindi ako nawawalan ng pag-asa ang mahalaga ay makita namin siya...kahit buto na lang," said Maria Renafe Momay-Castillo, eldest of Momay’s children.

By 11 a.m., after not finding any body, the group pulled out of the area and went to Datu Hoffer town.

"Frustrated to say that wala tayong nakita but the SOCO is positive that someone was really buried there... Posibleng inilipat sila,” said Khu.

Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. has been tagged as the principal suspect in the massacre. He is confined at the National Bureau of Investigation jail and is facing multiple murder charges.

Other members of the powerful Maguindanao clan, including the clan’s patriarch Andal Sr. and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy, have also been named in the multiple murder complaint. From a report of Lore Mae Andong, ABS-CBN Central Mindanao