AMPATUANS PLANNED MURDERS OVER DINNER
'Kill them all,' clan boss ordered son

(Note: This testimony of the house helper of Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. is presented to picture out how brutal political lords could become just because they don't care about the justice system catching up on them. It is also clearly seen here that the decision to kill all the opponents was anchored on full reliance on the woman at the Palace who was babysitting the clan for almost a decade.)

By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:41:00 09/09/2010

MANILA, Philippines—Over dinner amid laughter, the Ampatuan clan planned the massacre of a political rival and his supporters, and the family patriarch gave the final order to “kill them all” when the victims showed up six days later in an ambush that left 57 people dead, a house help testified Wednesday.

At the opening of the trial almost 10 months after the worst political violence in the nation’s history took place in Maguindanao, Lakmudin Saliao directly linked Andal Ampatuan Jr. to the killings allegedly on orders of his father, former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Saliao, 33, said that Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Datu Unsay town, led a force of over a hundred mostly police and paramilitary troopers that carried out the massacre on Nov. 23, 2009.

The dead included 30 journalists, the largest single group of media people killed in a single incident.

Saliao said that the patriarch had called his sons, including his junior and former Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, relatives and supporters to a meeting twice to stop his rival, Toto Mangudadatu, from filing his candidacy for governor in the May elections.

“That is easy, father. Kill them all if they come here,” Saliao quoted Ampatuan Jr. as saying during the first meeting on the night of Nov. 17 at the clan’s farm at Barangay Bagong in Shariff Aguak.

Saliao, who said he was a trusted close-in help of the patriarch, testified that Zaldy Ampatuan then spoke, “If that is what we’re talking about, we should plan it carefully so that we won’t be discovered.”

“That is why we are here. It is shameful for the Ampatuan clan to have someone challenge them,” said Anwar Ampatuan, mayor of Shariff Aguak, according to the testimony.

Another clan member, Vice Gov. Akmad Ampatuan, reportedly also spoke: “We will listen to father. It is OK with us if all of them are killed.”

The Ampatuan patriarch suggested that the massacre be carried out “somewhere in front of the highway that had been dug by the backhoe,” Saliao said.

Saliao, who told the court the quotes in the Maguindanao dialect, said the patriarch then asked his other children and supporters if they thought everyone in the Mangudadatu convoy should be killed.

OK with women

Saliao testified that the Ampatuan women stood up, along with the rest of the gathering, laughed and said it was “OK with them all if everyone was killed.”

Saliao said Ampatuan Sr. then flew to Manila the following day to meet with officials of the then ruling Lakas-Kampi coalition of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He returned to Shariff Aguak on Nov. 22, for a final meeting.

“If that is the final decision—to kill everyone—then I will go to Manila so that we will not be noticed. Let’s just call each other (on the phone),” Saliao quoted Zaldy as saying.

On the fateful day, Nov. 23, the patriarch went to a rest house in Barangay Bagong at around 9 a.m., Saliao said.

He said the elder Ampatuan ordered him to call his son on the phone.

“I gave the phone to (the father) and put it on speaker phone. ‘Jr.’ was (displayed on the phone screen),” Saliao said.

“Is Toto already there?” the father asked his son, who answered that the convoy had yet to arrive, according to Saliao.

‘Kill them all’

Later, the son through an “Icom radio” reported, “Father, they’re here,” Saliao said.

“Is Toto there?” the elder Ampatuan asked.

“No father. (Only) his wife and sister Bai Edsel,” the son answered.

Saliao said the father replied: “You know what to do. Kill them all.”

But then the old man reportedly added: “Just set aside the media.”

“No father. Let us finish this. They should all be killed. [They] will talk if they’re not killed,” Saliao quoted the son as saying. “Good,” Ampatuan Sr. remarked.

“A few minutes later, through a phone call that was on loud speaker phone, Andal Jr. said ‘Father. It is finished. They’re all dead,’” Saliao said.

A happy father

Saliao said the elder Ampatuan did not answer and “dropped the cellular phone.” Saliao said the patriarch looked “happy” and “kept on smiling” after he was told about the killings.

“He was happy and kept on smiling (because) many people were killed,” Saliao claimed.

He said Ampatuan Sr. then talked to another son, Anwar, and told him to meet Andal Jr. and join him “in his escape.” He said the patriarch later talked to “ustadz” or Islamic teachers.

Later that day, on a hilltop near the highway, troops recovered the 57 bodies gunned down and hastily buried along with some of the victims’ vehicles in mass graves dug by a backhoe.

Mangudadatu, who was later elected governor in the May elections, had sent his wife, sisters and other female relatives accompanied by journalists in the belief that their lives would be spared.

Smoking gun

Nena Santos, lawyer of the Mangudadatus, described Saliao’s testimony as “a smoking gun.”

The Ampatuans have denied the multiple murder charges filed against them.

In all, 196 people are facing charges related to the massacre, but only over a dozen are detained, including Andal Sr. and Andal Jr.

“It was at 5 p.m. that I heard on the news that Andal Jr. was the primary suspect in the killings,” Saliao told Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.

He said the following day, Ampatuan Sr. met with Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen and Cynthia Sayadi, the then regional solicitor general, at Ampatuan Jr.’s house to talk about his surrender.

“(Ampatuan Sr.) said Unsay will be surrendered only to the care of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Saliao said, adding that Sayadi replied that “they will do everything to help Andal Ampatuan Jr.”

A few minutes later, then Press Secretary Jess Dureza called and talked to Ampatuan Sr. for about “15 to 20 minutes” and afterward the patriarch said he had agreed to surrender his son “to the care” of Arroyo, Saliao added.

The hearing lasted almost three hours at the heavily guarded Bureau of Jail Management and Penology compound in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City. Black-clad sharpshooters patrolled on a catwalk while dozens of heavily armed police stood guard.

A long way to go

Ampatuan Jr., who wore a yellow prison shirt, smiled and whispered to a lawyer as Saliao testified.

Nenita Oquindo, who lost her husband and daughter in the massacre, wept as Saliao recounted how the killings were allegedly hatched.

“I have mixed emotions. I am angry at (Ampatuan Jr.) but at the same time I am happy that the witness gave a very clear testimony,” said Monete Salaysay, whose husband Napoleon, was killed in the massacre.

“I hope this is the start for us to finally find the light and get justice. But we have a long way to go,” she added.

The carnage drew international condemnation and prompted Arroyo to impose martial law in Maguindanao for a week as troops cracked down on the Ampatuans, her political allies.

Sen. Joker Arroyo has warned that the sheer volume of the case—at least 227 witnesses are listed by the prosecution and another 373 by the defense—means it could drag on for “200 years.”
With a report from Miko Morelos and Agence France-Presse
 
 
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