Ampatuan scion surrendersBusiness Insight Malaya | National
Is now detained at NBI
BY RAYMOND AFRICA, VICTOR REYES and EVANGELINE DE VERA
MAYOR Andal Ampatuan Jr., of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao, yesterday voluntarily turned himself over to authorities led by Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on Mindanao affairs.Ampatuan, principal suspect in the Monday killing of 57 people, mostly members of the rival Mangudadatu clan and media men, had been given up to 10 a.m. yesterday to surrender, according to Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.
Ampatuan was fetched by Dureza and Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, from the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak town, before noon.A military helicopter then took Ampatuan to General Santos City, where Dureza turned him over to Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera and NBI officials.
There he was subjected to inquest proceedings based on a complaint of multiple murder filed by Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town, before Justice department officials.Ampatuan Jr., who was not placed in handcuffs, denied any role in the massacre.
"Wala pong katutuhanan yan, wala pong katutuhan yan," Ampatuan Jr. said responding to a reporter at the General Santos City airport.
From General Santos City, Ampatuan was flown to Manila.He arrived around 7: 40 p.m. and was detained at the NBI main office along Taft avenue.Prosecutors "will have to resolve the case within 36 hours from detention," Devanadera said.
Ampatuan, in an ambush interview at the NBI, said: "Napakadali para magbintang, Dapat may ebidensiya. Wala akong kasalanan. Ang may kasalanan ay MILF, Umbra Kato.
"Umbra Kato is the commander of the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. He is among three commanders tagged as rogues for attacking civilian communities in parts of Central Mindanao in July last year.
The Mangudadatus were on their way Monday to the Shariff Aguak capitol to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael who is running for governor. Their convoy was stopped by about 100 armed men in Saniag village. The armed men then herded them to the remote hillside village of Salman in the same town, where their bodies where found in shallow graves also on Monday.
The Mangudadatus since Day 1 have been pointing to the Ampatuans as behind the massacre. Esmael has said his wife, who was among the fatalities, had named Ampatuan, son of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.
Hundreds of soldiers and policemen secured the Shariff Aguak capitol as Dureza and Ferrer fetched Ampatuan.
A company from the 64th Infantry Battalion and a number of tanks were deployed in the capitol hours earlier in anticipation of what the military said was possible "resistance" from the Ampatuan camp.
Militiamen and civilian volunteers believed to be sympathetic to the Ampatuans were not able to resist because "they were surprised," said Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, chief of the AFP public information office.
"Luckily, the SCAAs (Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary) and the CVOs (Civilian Volunteer Organization) did not resist. Instead, they cooperated," he said.Dureza, Ferrer and Ampatuan stayed in the capitol for about half an hour.
Puno said the chopper carrying Ampatuan Jr. going to General Santos City was shot at by unknown people from the ground.
"Had Ampatuan refused to board the plane that would take him to General Santos City en route to Manila, both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP were prepared to take action and exert all physical force necessary to ensure that he was brought to inquest by the Department of Justice," he said.
Puno said Ampatuan Jr. was placed under perimeter surveillance from the time he was implicated in the killings.
He also said Dureza first talked to the Ampatuans on Monday in the provincial capitol on Ampatuan Jr.’s possible involvement. He said he had asked the family to have the mayor available anytime for any investigation.
Ferrer said there had been negotiations with the members of the Ampatuan family to turn over Ampatuan Jr. to the government and the family fulfilled its "commitment for them to voluntarily surrender (Ampatuan) to the authorities.
"He said Dureza, who chairs the crisis committee, arrived at the capitol around 11 a.m. and Ampatuan went out of the capitol 30 minutes later.
Ferrer said there was no resistance from the Ampatuan family. "In fact the (Ampatuan) family was the one who turned him over. There were no armed guards or bodyguards. Of course it was normal that the family cried as he boarded the helicopter."
Government functions have ceased since the massacre, and the military deployed a company of soldiers at the town halls of Shariff Aguak and Ampatuan towns, which are bailiwicks of the Ampatuans.
Brawner said the military disarmed all of the 357 government militiamen in the province, mostly based at the provincial capitol. The military had issued an order last Wednesday, disbanding all the SCAA (Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary) companies in the province, pending probe on their possible involvement in the abduction and killings.
Earlier reports indicated government militiamen were among the 100 armed men who intercepted the Ampatuan convoy.
Ferrer expressed confidence the surrender of Ampatuan Jr. will ease tension in the province.
Ferrer could not say until when the soldiers will deployed at the provincial capitol and the adjoining towns.
But he said the soldiers were also tasked to disarm civilians to prevent more violence, and to ensure that no Cafgu or CVO posts would be maintained.
Ferrer also said the military and the police will be giving security personnel to both the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans.
"The military and police units will determine who are going to secure both families when they travel, their residences. It’s also imperative that these security personnel know each other so they won’t clash," he said.
The Mangudadatu clan said they are relieved that the government had taken into custody Ampatuan Jr. but they want other clan members arrested.
Madasser Mangudadatu, a member of the ARMM-Regional Legislative Assembly and brother of Esmael, would not name names although he accused the elder Ampatuan of ordering the killing."
Let’s just wait, all of them are just there but the government should ensure that justice will be served. We are hoping that justice will prevail here. Many want the truth, many are seeking justice for this heinous crime," he said.
Madasser said they are hoping that the prosecution of Ampatuan Jr. would proceed for the sake of those whose lives were claimed and their families.
Madasser also said it is not only the Mangudadatus who lost their loved ones, and therefore the other victims should be also be given attention.
"The focus should not only be on the Mangudadatus because it’s not only us who lost loved ones. Many have lost their fathers, mothers. It’s not only the Mangudadatus who are grieving, we also have the Christian brothers and friends from the media," he said.
In General Santos City, the inquest proceeding which started at 2:45 p.m. was presided by Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño and City prosecutor Edilberto Jamora.Ampatuan was accompanied by lawyer Siegfried Fortun.
Some 15 minutes into the proceedings, tension gripped the small airport lounge when Mangudadatu arrived, raised his voice while pointing to Ampatuan as the mastermind."Mainit ang dating ni Mangudadatu... so the prosecutors told him to calm down and sit on the other side of the room," Olivia Sudaria of the Philippine Information Agency told justice beat reporters.
Mangudadatu affirmed his affidavit, which served as the complaint against Ampatuan. After the inquest, a fiscal may file the case before the court. During this period, the suspect may opt to request for a formal preliminary investigation wherein he may submit a counter-affidavit.
Devanadera, back in Manila, said criminal charges will be filed today against Ampatuan Jr. before the Cotabato City regional trial court.
The filing of the case is to meet the 36-hour requirement after inquest proceedings in the filing of charges involving felony.
Devanadera said both the Ampatuans and the Mangudadatu have agreed that the place of detention be at the NBI.Devanadera said aside from the affidavit-complaint filed by Esmael, seven others have been received by the DOJ from the families of victims of the Maguindanao massacre.
She said that Ampatuan was considered a prime suspect, but they are still gathering information as to the identity of the other suspects."
(Ampatuan) voluntarily surrendered, he had no choice. Pressured na sila. All law enforcers were in the area." she said.
Devanadera also told reporters that she has made a request at the Supreme Court for the transfer of the venue from the Cotabato court to an RTC in Manila due to security reasons.
Meanwhile, Ampatuan and some of his family members have been placed under the Bureau of Immigration’s watchlist.
Verzosa said based on the initial investigation, the killings were premeditated.
"The initial assessment on the succession of events, it could have been premeditated. There was a plan, this was planned. We will reinforce these findings by continuing our investigation," he said.
He said the backhoe owned by the provincial government of Maguindanao and which was apparently used to dig the mass graves is one of the vital pieces of evidence.
Andres Caro II, PNP director for operations, said the PNP would also look into the possible involvement of the other members of the Ampatuan clan and they might be invited for questioning under a possible conspiracy angle.
Caro, in a briefing in Malacañang, said it took a while before the young Ampatuan was identified as a suspect because of the "complex situation" and there was no immediate evidence linking him to the massacre.
Caro also said the PNP has heightened its alert in Metro Manila. He said the Metro Manila police are already aware of the whereabouts of supporters of the Ampatuans and even the Mangudadatus in the metropolis.
PNP chief Jesus Verzosa relieved Chief Supt. Paisal Umpa, regional police chief of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, to pave way for an impartial investigation of his men linked to the killings.
Umpa will be replaced by Senior Supt. Bienvenido Latag, ARMM deputy chief for administration. Umpa is now detailed at the Directorate for Intelligence in Camp Crame.Aside from Umpa, Verzosa also ordered the administrative relief of Insp. Armando Mariga, group director of the 1506th Police Mobile Group, and Insp. Saudi Mokamad, group director of the 1507th PMG for their possible involvement in the murders.
Also relieved was the 20-strong Ampatuan police force.Lt. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang, AFP vice chief of staff who represented AFP chief Gen. Victor Ibrado in a press conference in Camp Crame, said they also deactivated four civilian units in Maguindanao and have placed its 347 men under investigation. The civilian volunteers were also disarmed.
Puno said four police officers in Maguindanao who were placed under restrictive custody at the CIDG office in Cotabato City for their possible involvement in the crime were also flown in to Manila. They will also be detained in Camp Crame.
They are Senior Supt. Agusana Maguid, Maguindanao police chief; Chief Insp. Sukarno Dicay, deputy police chief; Senior Insp. Ariel Diongson, group director 1508th Provincial Mobile Group; and SPO2 Badawi Bakal, officer in charge of the Datu Ampatuan police station.
To ensure there will be no escalation of hostilities, the AFP and the PNP took over the provincial capitol building in Shariff Aguak, the town hall of Ampatuan, and the ARMM capitol perimeter.
Government forces have also secured main highway connecting these three installations. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Reuters
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