Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - A Philippine police official has confirmed that a potential witness in the Maguindanao (south Philippines) massacre had been killed, a private prosecutor said yesterday.
In all, six people¿three witnesses and three relatives of other witnesses¿have been killed in connection with the trial of the politically influential Ampatuan family accused in the Nov. 23, 2009 murders of 57 people, including the wife of the current Maguindanao governor, Esmael Mangudadatu.
Nena Santos, a counsel of the Mangudadatus, said Senior Superintendent Marcelo Pintac, the police director of Maguindanao, had reported that Alijol Ampatuan was shot in Shariff Aguak, the provincial capital, in February, and that he later died.
Alijol was a distant relative of former Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., who is among the 196 people accused in the massacre. Of the number, 96 people have been arrested and detained, including the former governor and seven members of his family.
Santos said Alijol was not immediately identified because he was then named by investigators as ¿Menjie Mangulamas Ubpon¿. She said that according to Pintac¿s report, Police Officer 3 Rainier Ebus identified Alijol. Ebus reportedly knew Alijol personally.
¿He was killed. We got a report from Pintac that he was shot in February in Shariff Aguak," Santos said after a hearing in the case yesterday in Bicutan, Taguig in Metro Manila.
Santos said the five others killed in connection with the Ampatuan trial were witnesses Suwaib Upham, Esmael Amil Enog and three relatives of other witnesses.
Witness deployed gunmen
The lawyer said that the prosecution had been searching for Alijol Ampatuan to make him a state witness.
She said that Enog testified in July last year that Alijol had ordered Enog to bring 36 militiamen to the massacre site on the day the 57 people, including 31 journalists, were either gunned down or hacked to death.
When Santos reported in late May that Enog had been killed¿his body cut to pieces and placed in a sack¿Alijol was still missing but feared dead.
Santos presented to the media the incident report from the Maguindanao police which showed that Alijol, identified as Ubpon who also used the alias ¿Yob Kutob," was shot in Shariff Aguak at around 6am on February 12.
¿Initial investigation¿ showed that the victim was standing at (the) public market area beside the national highway when two unidentified suspects riding on a motorcycle suddenly shot the victim at close range using a 45 cal. pistol," the report said.
¿The victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds in the chest and left arm and was immediately brought¿ to the Maguindanao provincial hospital for medical treatment but later transferred to Tamundong Memorial Hospital at Ala, Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat," it added.
The incident report did not say that the victim died but Santos said he did die later.
At the hearing Wednesday in Camp Bagong Diwa, Governor Mangudadatu again took the witness stand to continue the testimony he gave in early 2010. Mangudadatu described members of the Ampatuan clan accused in the case as either influential, powerful or violent.
Mangudadatu was supposed to personally identify the principal accused¿Andal Sr. and his namesake son¿but their lawyers agreed to stipulate that he could identify them.
The jail guards then led the Ampatuan clan patriarch and his son¿who was visibly leaner compared to his last court appearance last year¿and nine other accused back to their cells.
Mangudadatu then positively identified Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay, the former Maguindanao deputy provincial police chief, among the 62 accused who were wearing yellow prison shirts.
¿He¿s on the second row¿ sitting," Mangudadatu said as he pointed to Dicay, who smiled as he sat among the six rows of handcuffed accused.
The hearing was later adjourned because of the faulty air-conditioning system inside the courtroom. It will resume Thursday at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court with Mangudadatu continuing his testimony