189 suspects to be arrested for Maguindanao massacre

By DateLine Philippines

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City ordered the arrest of 189 individuals, including policemen and soldiers who were earlier indicted by the Department of Justice (DOJ), for allegedly conspiring with the powerful Ampatuan clan in perpetrating the gruesome Maguindanao massacre which that left 57 people dead, including 32 journalists in November 2009.

At the same time, Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 issued the commitment orders allowing the continued detention of eight other accused in the Maguindanao massacre, including six Ampatuans.

The commitment orders cover Ampatuan patriarch and former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., his son Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Datu Zaldy “Puti” U. Ampatuan, Maguindanao vice governor Datu Akmad Tato Ampatuan, Datu Sajid Islam U. Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan and militiamen Takpan Dilon and Esmael Canapia.

Andal Ampatuan Sr is currently under military custody in Davao City. His son Zaldy and other Ampatuans are being held at the Criminal Investigation Detection Unit of the Philippine National Police Region 12.

Takpan Dilon and Esmael Canapia, are currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame, Quezon City. The two CVOs, who were carrying a shotgun and an M16 rifle as they attempted to flee the massacre site, were arrested by responding Army soldiers. Crime laboratory personnel later found that Canapia’s M16 rifle was the source of at least three bullet casings recovered from the crime scene.

The DOJ earlier said it would ask the Supreme Court (SC) to determine where the 197 accused should be detained pending the trial of the multiple murder case.

Copies of the arrest warrants and commitment orders have been forwarded to the DOJ and proper authorities for implementation.

In its resolution issued on February 9, the DOJ investigating panel led by Senior State Prosecutor Leo Dacera recommended the filing of 57 counts of murder charges against 28 members of the powerful Ampatuan clan and 169 others, including policemen and soldiers in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.

The DOJ said that based on the evidence, the Ampatuans were the ones who instigated the plan to ambush the Mangudadatu clan, their supporters and mediamen on their way to the office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Cotabato City to file the certificate of candidacy of Esmael Mangudadatu for the gubernatorial post in Maguindanao.

Witnesses also positively identified Maguindanao Mayor Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr., the alleged mastermind of the massacre, and several others as among those who directly participated in the carnage.

Ampatuan Jr. has been detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) following his arrest last November.

He is charged with 57 counts of murder separately before the QC RTC that is now hearing his bail petition.

The DOJ stressed that there was a conspiracy between the Ampatuans, its supporters, and several members of the police and the military in perpetrating the crime.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday began serving of warrants of arrest against 47 policemen implicated in the Maguindanao massacre.

The PNP’s move came after QCRTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes ordered the arrest of 196 persons implicated in the massacre.

Chief Supt. Francisco Don Montenegro, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) director, said 47 of the 63 policemen ordered arrested are now detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

The 63 policemen were reportedly assigned at the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office at the time of the massacre.

The 47 policemen were initially housed at Kiangan Hall in Camp Crame after they were flown to Manila by batches beginning last month, the CIDG chief said.

Supt. Joaquin Alva of the CIDG Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) said there are 63 policemen linked to the massacre, but only 51 of them reported to Camp Crame on orders from higher ups.

Of the 51, only 47 remained under police custody. Four policemen have yet to be located anew since they were allowed to go out of the camp and have since not returned or reported back.

Some 12 policemen were dropped from the rolls and are now the subject of manhunt operations, Alva said.

Those detained at the PNP Custodial Center include Supt. Abusama Mundas Maguid, officer in charge (OIC) of the Maguindanao Police Provincial Office; Chief Insp. Sukarno Adil Dikay, deputy provincial director; Insp. Armando Sanday Mariga, group director of the 1506th Provincial Mobile Group (PMG); Insp. Saudi Matabalao Mokamad, group director of the 1507th PMG; Insp. Rex Ariel Tabao Diongon, group director, 1508th PMG; Senior Insp. Abdulgapor Benasing Abad, commanding officer, 15th Regional Mobile Group; and SPO2 Badawi Piang Bakal, OIC, Ampatuan Municipal Police Station.

Alva said they will be filing a motion in court to transfer the detention of these policemen from Camp Crame to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, which has a much larger detention facility. With a report from Anthony Vargas

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