Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Massacre tests judicial reform in Philippines

Reuters, MANILA

One witness, Lakmudin Saliao, testified in September 2010 that the massacre was planned over a family gathering during which the patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr, asked how they could prevent a challenge by their political rival, Esmael Mangudadatu.

“That’s easy. If they come here, just kill them all,” his son, Andal Ampatuan Jr., replied according to the testimony by Saliao, who had served at the family dinner that evening.

Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his four sons are in jail awaiting trial. Two other Ampatuan clan members, a brother of Andal Sr and a grandson, are also in detention.

Esmael Enog had worked as a driver for the Ampatuans. He testified he brought dozens of gunmen to a checkpoint where the convoy was stopped. He heard the gunfire and identified four members of a local militia linked to the massacre.

He declined state protection, partly to be with his family. Instead, he tried to hide in a farming village in Maguindanao, fearing about 100 loyal Ampatuan militia members still at large, said his lawyer, Nena Santos. He went missing in April.

Local police, however, have denied finding Enog’s body and a search for him, dead or alive, continues.

At the current pace, it could take decades for a final judgment, said opposition senator Joker Arroyo.

The court is now hearing arguments on the Ampatuans’ bail petition and has not begun examining the merits of all 57 counts of murder against them. Ninety-six of 196 people accused in the massacre have been arrested, including seven members of the Ampatuan clan, but only 64 have been arraigned.

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