DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 Sept) – Former Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza said he will give his “full testimony” in court “if asked to testify” but denied he made arrangements for then Datu Unsay mayor Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr., to be turned over to the custody of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“As the official handling the crisis situation during that incident, I categorically deny that I made arrangements for Datu Unsay Ampatuan to be turned over to the custody of then President Arroyo. Having handled several previous crisis situations, I was fully aware of the sensitivity of the issue. Custody by the president was never an option. Neither was it ever discussed by me with anyone,” Dureza’s press statement read.
“I recall I discussed the need to hand over Datu Unsay for investigation with Bapa Andal Ampatuan Sr in his house in Maguindanao in the presence of Congressman (Didagen) Dilangalen, Atty. Cynthia Guiani (then ARMM Solicitor-General), (Energy) Undersecretary Zamzamin Ampatuan, among others,” Dureza, a lawyer, said.
Dureza’s statement came following the testimony last Wednesday of Lakmodin Saliao, a longtime househelp of the Ampatuans, that Ampatuan Jr., agreed to surrender last November after being promised he would be placed in the custody of Ms Arroyo.
Saliao, according to a GMANews.TV report, testified that then Maguindanao Rep. Didagen Dilangalen met with the patriarch, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., at the Ampatuans’ farm in Barangay Bagong in Shariff Aguak, the day after the November 23 massacre, to convince him to surrender his son.
Ampatuan, Jr., was the principal suspect in the massacre of at least 58 persons, including the wife and sisters of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and 32 the media workers. The convoy was en route to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections to deliver Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor of Maguindanao, a post Ampatuan Jr., was also eyeing.
Saliao quoted Ampatuan Sr., as saying he would surrender his son only to the custody of then President Arroyo.
The Ampatuans are loyal supporters of Arroyo. Arroyo referred to the Ampatuan patriarch as “Ama” (Father).
Dilangalen allegedly assured Ampatuan Sr. that they would do everything they can to help.
Saliao said the patriarch asked him to dial the number of then presidential adviser on Mindanao Jesus Dureza so he could tell him Ampatuan, Jr. will be surrendered only to Ms Arroyo.
Saliao said after 15 to 20 minutes of conversing over the phone, Dureza reportedly agreed to Ampatuan Sr.’s request.
Saliao, according to the GMA7.TV report, said Dureza went to the Ampatuan mansion at about 2 p.m. of November 25.
Saliao also told the court that he was present when the Ampatuans met in November 17 and 22 to plan the attack on the convoy led by members of the rival Mangudadatu political clan. At least 58 persons were killed, 32 of them from the media.
President Arroyo on November 24, issued Proclamation 1946, declaring a state of emergency over the provinces of Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat and the city of Cotabasto.
Morning of November 24, Dureza met with then Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer at the 601st Infantry Brigade in Tacurong City.
They were later connected by teleconference with Malacanang at around 1 p.m. where the President was presiding over a hastily-called security meeting. “We were getting specific instructions from her. So did Bert, PNP Chief Jess Versoza and AFP Vice CS Maclang who arrived with us. Her voice had that sense of urgency. Inputs from the other cabinet members were also relayed,” Dureza said in his account of what transpired from November 23 to 26.
The Crisis Management Committee was activated on November 24, with Dureza as chair.
Dureza left the Brigade camp and motored to Shariff Aguak to meet with Ampatuan Sr. in his mansion afternoon of November 24 (Saliao’s account said November 25).
Two days later, on November 26, Dureza flew by helicopter to the provincial capitol compound in Shariff Aguak shortly before noon, to fetch Ampatuan Jr. also known as Datu Unsay.
“I spirited Datu Unsay out of Shariff Aguak by Huey helicopter accompanied by his lawyer Atty Guiani to Gen Santos City airport and personally handed him over to then Justice Sec Agnes Devenadera for inquest proceedings and custody. Then on the same day, we flew him by Air Force plane to Manila direct to the National Bureau of Investigation detention facilities. Considering however that the issue is in court now hence covered by the sub judice rule and in the interest of orderly administration of justice, it is most appropriate that this matter be taken up in detail in court. I will give my full testimony if asked to testify,” Dureza’s statement added.
Dureza had written a four-page account titled, “The Maguindanao Massacre: The Four Critical Days” where he detailed what he did form November 23 to November 26. His account was published on November 30 by several media outlets, MindaNews included.
Ampatuan, Jr. was turned over to Dureza at the Army-controlled provincial capitol grounds in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, at 11:44 a.m., nearly two hours after the supposed 10 a.m. deadline on November 26.
The mayor was turned over to Dureza by then ARMM governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, his elder brother. The latter declined to answer questions, telling MindaNews to ask instead their “family spokesman,” Engr. Norie Unas. The Ampatuan patriarch was conspicuously absent.
Unas said the turnover of Ampatuan Jr. to Dureza was “no surrender.”
“There is no case yet. This is just cooperation. He was turned over to cooperate in the investigation,” said Unas. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)