Filipino describes massacre burial


Wed, Jul 03, 2013 - Page 6

A backhoe driver has described in chilling detail how he used an excavator to bury the 58 victims of the Philippines’ worst political massacre, according to a video aired yesterday.

The man said he dug a big hole near where the victims were shot by the Ampatuan clan in November 2009, then pushed the bodies, as well as their cars, down the pit.

“I am Bong Andal, a trusted employee of the Ampatuans ... they ordered me to bury the people they had massacred,” the man said in the clip aired by GMA network.

The clan allegedly ordered the massacre to stop a political rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, from running against one of its members for governor of Maguindanao, a poor farming province in the south.

The Ampatuan patriarch, two sons and several family members are in custody and on trial for the murder of 58 victims, including 32 journalists who were covering the political contest.

The backhoe driver was arrested in November last year, while more than 90 other suspects remain at large.

GMA said Andal had signed a deposition that was given to state prosecutors. It said it later had an exclusive interview with him, in which he repeated the allegations made in the written deposition.

The network said part of his quotes were from the deposition and part from the interview.

“I used the backhoe to push the vehicles into the hole first. Then I flattened them with its metal arm,” the station quoted him as saying. “Some of the vehicles had dead people inside, so I just closed my eyes out of fright and got on with it.”

Andal also said he used the excavator’s arm to drag the dead bodies into the hole, the station said.

Andal alleged in the video clip that the clan patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr, ordered him to take the excavator to the place where the 58 people were shot dead, and to make sure it had enough fuel.

“The Ampatuans warned me and my parents not to get myself arrested. They said if I get caught, they would kill my parents, my siblings and my children,” he said.

The driver is being held by the national government’s witness protection program, along with other witnesses, amid fears they could face retribution for testifying against the clan, GMA said.

At least three witnesses have been killed since 2010, including a former Ampatuan family employee whose dismembered remains were found stuffed into a sack last year.

Andal wants to become a state witness, GMA said.

Philippine Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima, who supervises the massacre case, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.