Monday, June 11, 2012

Kopi Talk Permanently silenced

During the massacre itself, the weapons of choice were guns and a backhoe. This time, a chainsaw appears to have been used to chop up a key witness in the 2009 massacre of 57 confirmed victims in Maguindanao. The body parts of witness Esmail Amil Enog have been found in a sack, according to a prosecutor.

Enog, an employee of the Ampatuans when the clan still controlled Maguindanao and the rest of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, had been reported missing since March. He had testified in court that he had driven followers of the Ampatuan clan to the massacre site, and he could have helped identify an estimated 100 participants in the mass murder who remain at large.

Sixty-four men are on trial for the grisly crime, including clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Andal Jr. and Zaldy as well as several of their relatives. Despite being detained without bail, they are believed to remain influential in the ARMM, with their followers still armed and capable of harassing and murdering prosecution witnesses.

The gruesome killing of Enog is a chilling warning to other prosecution witnesses. It should prompt the government to provide protection for those who have dared incur the ire of the Ampatuans by testifying against them. Though no longer in power, the Ampatuans are believed to still have sufficient resources to retaliate against their enemies. The clan is expected to exhaust all its resources to escape conviction or at least secure a light sentence for the most atrocious case of political violence in the nation’s history.

Enog’s murder should also prompt the courts to speed up the trial, starting with those accused as the masterminds. Until a guilty verdict is handed down and the principal perpetrators start serving their sentences, there remains a strong possibility that witnesses will be permanently silenced. -