Key witness in Maguindanao massacre case hurt in South Cotabato ambush
Robie de Guzman • June 3, 2020 • 1053
MANILA, Philippines – A witness in the Maguindanao massacre trial who is under state protection was injured in an ambush in South Cotabato on Wednesday.
Lawyer Nena Santos, who represents several families of the massacre victims, said Mohamad Sangki, his driver, and one security escort from the Department of Justice’s witness protection program (WPP) were traversing Tantangan, South Cotabato on their way to the airport when they were ambushed.
Sangki was not hit by the bullets but he sustained injuries due to the impact of the vehicle when it slammed against two cottages along the road, Santos said.
The security escort was able to return fire but the gunmen fled the scene.
“The driver is 50/50 but prognosis is bad,” she added.
Santos said they are now being treated in a hospital while authorities are pursuing the perpetrators.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will order an investigation into the shooting incident.
“Sangki is a vital witness in the second wave of prosecution for the Maguindanao massacre, and it is not far-fetched that his ambush today had something to do with the horrible case,” Guevarra said in a statement.
This is the second time that Sangki’s life was threatened after he survived an ambush try in Sharif Aguak town in Maguindanao in March.
The Maguindanao massacre, the country’s worst case of election-related violence, claimed the lives of 58 people on November 23, 2009.
Most of the victims were media personnel who joined the convoy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s wife to cover the filing of his certificate of candidacy for the governor’s position.
In December 2019, members of the Ampatuan clan were found guilty and sentenced to a maximum of 40 years of imprisonment for the murder of 57 people in Maguindanao.
Among those convicted were Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., Zaldy Ampatuan, and Datu Anwar, Sr. who are sons of the late Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. accused of masterminding the gruesome crime. –RRD (details from CorrespondenceJanice Ingente)
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it is ready to place witnesses of the Tarlac shooting under its Witness Protection Program (WPP).
On Wednesday (December 23), DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said those who witnessed the shooting of Sonia Gregorio, 53, and her son Frank Anthony, 25, can seek protection as investigation into the incident is ongoing.
“The witnesses who need protection may apply at DOJ for provisional cover under the WPP, and the DOJ will immediately evaluate their application,” he said.
Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca was the policeman who shot the two victims in Paniqui, Tarlac on Sunday (December 20) while in the middle of a heated argument over an improvised canon. The incident was caught on video and went viral on social media.
Nuezca is currently facing two counts of murder at the Regional Trial Court ng Branch 67 ng Paniqui, Tarlac. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)
MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Ampatuan clan who were found guilty of planning and executing the gruesome 2009 massacre in Maguindanao are heading to the Court of Appeals (CA) to contest their convictions.
In a notice served to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 on Thursday, Brothers Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan said they will take the case to the appellate court, and asked the lower court to forward all of the case records to the CA for review and proceedings.
Their relatives Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Sr. and his sons Datu Anwar Jr and Anwar Sajid have filed separate motions for reconsiderations before the Quezon City court, urging Judge Solis-Reyes to review the decision due to the alleged loopholes in the testimony of some witnesses.
On December 19, Judge Solis-Reyes handed down a guilty verdict to some members of the political Ampatuan clan for their involvement in the murder of 57 people, including members of the media.
Originally, there were 58 victims in the massacre but the 58th person, photographer Reynaldo Momay of the local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after his body was not found in the scene.
The ambush happened when 32 members of the media were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.
Six of the victims were not part of the Mangudadatu supporters and the media convoy.
The Ampatuan massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, in a separate motion, Zaldy Ampatuan asked the QC court to allow his transfer to the infirmary of the New Bilibid Prison “to receive therapy, rehabilitation and medication prescribed by his doctors, and so as not to unduly put his health in jeopardy.
His lawyers said the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government have suffered three strokes in two months, and has hypertension, diabetes and chronic atrial fibrillation.
Zaldy Ampatuan had been confined to a hospital in Makati from October to December. He was ordered by the court to return to his detention facility a day before the Ampatuan case promulgation.
Mangudadatu, on the other hand, said he is not surprised by the legal moves that the Ampatuans are employing following the promulgation.
“Expected namin yan pero kung magkaroon man ng final conviction kumbaga dapat sa panahon na yan may bitay na para hindi na tularan itong ganitong klaseng gawain,” he said.
He also expressed confidence that evidence against the Ampatuans are airtight and that the appellate court will not grant their appeals. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)
MANILA, Philippines – Human Rights Watch (HRW) group urged the Philippine government to hunt down and arrest the remaining suspects in the Ampatuan massacre case who are still at large.
In a statement issued ahead of the case promulgation on Thursday, the HRW said the suspects in the gruesome attack who still roam free puts the victims’ families and wit at grave risk.
“The families of Maguindanao victims and witnesses will be at risk so long as suspects remain free,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.
Around 197 people were accused in the massacre. Of this number, 101 were put on trial while 80 others are yet to be arrested.
Among the suspects who remain at large are 14 members of the Ampatuan clan, and 50 soldiers and policemen who were accused of planning and carrying out the massacre on November 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan are the primary accused in the case.
The alleged private army of the Ampatuans purportedly blocked and ambushed the convoy of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans – when they were on their way to file his candidacy for the 2010 elections in a local Commission on Elections office.
The incident left 58 people dead including 32 media personnel, some civilians and members of the Mangudadatu family.
The massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.
A special court was created by the Supreme Court to handle the case, enabling the presiding judge, Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court branch 221, to hold frequent hearings.
The case has dragged on for a decade in part because of the sheer number of victims, respondents and witnesses presented both for the prosecution and defense.
With the expected release of the verdict on the case, the HRW said the government should continue to pursue all the accused.
“Regardless of the verdicts in the case, Philippine authorities need to apprehend the several dozen suspects still at large,” Robertson said.
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