Thursday, November 26, 2009


Malacanang: Ampatuans must surrender suspect today

COTABATO CITY –  Malacañang has given a powerful clan in Mindanao until this Thursday to surrender one of its own who has been linked to the massacre in Maguindanao, an official said.
Mindanao Affairs Secretary Jesus Dureza said that Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. must surrender or combat troops will attack the Ampatuan premises in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao's capital town.
Ampatuan Jr., son of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., was identified as being behind the gruesome killings of at least 57 persons, most of them journalists, who were supposed to cover the filing of the certificate of candidacy of rival politician Esmael Mangudadatu.
"Am giving them [Ampatuans] up to 10 this morning to peacefully surrender Datu Unsay [Andal, Jr.'s moniker] or else the AFP [Armed Force of the Philippines] will be forced to swoop into their abodes," he said.
The surrender may take place either in Shariff Aguak or at the General Santos airport, where the surrenderee is expected to be flown to Manila," said Dureza, who declined to elaborate.
Earlier in the day, Philippine National Police Chief Jesus Verzosa said on radio that several gunmen were arrested.
He identified the suspects as militiamen under the control of Ampatuan Jr.
"Andal Ampatuan Jr. is a suspect. He has sent feelers and Secretary Dureza will accompany him to submit to an investigation," Verzosa said, referring to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's adviser on the southern island of Mindanao.
The massacre occurred after about 100 Ampatuan gunmen allegedly abducted a convoy of aides and relatives of a rival politician, Esmael Mangudadatu, plus a group of journalists.
The victims were snatched as they were traveling in a six-vehicle convoy to nominate Mangudadatu as the opposition candidate for provincial governor in next year's elections.
They were shot at close range, some with their hands tied behind their backs, and dumped or buried in shallow graves on a remote farming road close to a town bearing the Ampatuan name.
Fifty-seven bodies have been recovered so far, and police are still searching for more potential victims.
Ampatuan Sr. had been grooming his son, currently a local mayor, to take over as governor of Maguindanao.
The victims' relatives alleged the Ampatuans organized the murders so that Mangudadatu would not run for that post.
Thursday's actions by the police were the first arrests in relation to the massacre.