Families of policemen implicated in Ampatuan Massacre appeal for justice

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/03 September) –  Fifty-eight persons were killed in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao but families of  30 policemen who claimed to have no participation at all in the massacre but are presently detained with the other suspects in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, say they are  “pinapatay nang pa-unti-unti” (being killed slowly) since the detention of  the policemen and the suspension of their salaries for over a year now.

Members of the 1123 Advocates, the organization the policemen’s families set up in September last year, reiterated their appeal to President Benigno Aquino,  Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales to grant their request for a “separate and speedy trial” for the policemen, as they narrated how their sons and daughters had stopped schooling and how difficult life has been for them.

OFF DUTY. Laarni Sabang wife of PO1 Sandy Sabang of Datu Unsay Municipal Police Station says her husband, detailed as security escort to Bai Laila Uy Ampatuan, mother of then Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., says he was off duty on November 23, 2009 and was with her in Talayan town to get lumber for the house they were planning to build. Sabang is a member of 1123 Advocates, an organization of families of policemen who allegedly were not involved in the massacre and who are demanding a "separate and speedy" trial for them. . MindaNews photo by Toto LozanoLaarni, 32, mother of three and wife of P01 Sandy Sabang, said the detained policemen’s salaries were ordered suspended by the National Police Commission since April last year, supposedly for 90 days only.

“Marami nang tumigil sa pag-aaral. May mga namatayan hindi man lang sila nakauwi. May nasiraan ng bait” (Several children stopped schooling. A number suffered deaths in the family but they could not come home for the burial. Some suffered mental stress), she said.

“Patay nga yung namatayan pero itong mga pamilya ng mga pulis, pinapatay nang pa-unti-unti…. Hanggang kailan kami magtitiis? Hanggang mamatay kami sa gutom?” (The families of the victims lost their loved ones but the families of the policemen are being killed slowly.. Until when will we suffer? Until we die of hunger?), Bai Jalilah Maguid, wife of Supt. Abusama Maguid, then the provincial director, told MindaNews Thursday.

Beverly, 39, wife of PO2 Rexson Guiama, said two of her college students had to stop school, one of them applying to be a Marine. The Guiamas have seven children, aged 2 to 20.

Guiama’s husband, assigned at the 1507 Provincial Mobile group in North Upi but detailed as security for the Mega Market administrator in Cotabato City,  was ordered to augment road security for those filing certificates of candidacy for the May 10, 2010 elections, in Sitio Binibiran, Barangay Matagabong in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao,  on November 19 by the  new commanding officer. She said her husband was told they would be suspended if they did not report to Binibiran.

Laarni’s husband, P01 Sandy Sabang, 36,  was assigned to the municipal police station in Datu Unsay town but detailed as security escort of Bai Laila Ampatuan, mother of then Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., and then ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan. She said her husband was off duty on November 23, 2009 and was with him in Barangay Macasampen, Talayan town, to get lumber for the house they were planning to build.

She said they heard of what happened in Ampatuan town only through the radio and that she accompanied her husband to go to Shariff Aguak at around 10:30 to 11 a.m. but there was a barricade along the national highway in Tugaig, Datu Salibo town.  She said her husband hitched a ride  in a police vehicle that was bound for Shariff Aguak for a scheduled ballistics test that day, and returned at .

SPO1 Alimola Guianaton’s wife, Marife, 36, said her husband, assigned at the 1507 Provincial Mobile Group in Magelco, Upi was home on November 18 when ordered to report to Sitio Binibiran along the highway in Ampatuan town, 13 kilometers from the massacre site, on November 19 to 23.

“Hindi sila kasama sa massacre site, sa post lang sa Sitio Binibiran” (they were not in the massacre site, they were just in Sitio Binibiran), she said.

Supt. Bahnarin Kamaong’s wife, Jaylen, 36,  said her husband, assigned to the ARMM Regional Mobile Group but detailed as close-in security of then ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan,  was supposed to return to Shariff Aguak from Davao City that Saturday “pero tumawag si GMA kay RG na bumalik sa Manila kasi may urgent meeting” (but President Arroyo called the Regional Governor to Manila for an urgent meeting) and so they left for Manila from Davao early morning of November 23, a Monday.

1123 ADVOCATES. Wives of the arrested policemen from Maguindanao call for a "separate and speedy trial" of their husbands during an interview, September 1 in Cotabato City. The families of the policemen had banded together into the 1123 Advocates, an organization of famlies of policemen who allegedly were not involved in the massacre and who are demanding a "separate and speedy" trial for them. . MindaNews photo by Toto LozanoJanet Utto, 30, said her husband Jerry, a P01, assigned at the 1507 Provincial Mobile Group in Nuro Upi, was off duty when ordered to provide road security in Sitio Binibiran. She said her husband was told his salary would be suspended if he did not report there.

Maguid said her husband, head of Logistics at the ARMM regional headquarters in Parang town, was given an order one Sunday in October to serve in concurrent capacity as provincial police chief, a designation she said was apparently meant to keep Sukarno Dicay, the OIC provincial police chief, in Shariff Aguak.

“Ginamit lang husband ko” (My husband was used), she said.

Dicay was reportedly on his way out because he did not meet the qualifications to be a provincial police chief  but apparently favored by the Ampatuans, was retained in Shariff Aguak as deputy.

Maguid thinks her husband, who did not want the additional assignment even as he was qualified for the post, was used because everyone knew Dicay was acting like he were still the police chief, and was actually handling operations in the run-up to the massacre.

She said her husband was in the provincial headquarters in Shariff Aguak for the ballistics test but rushed to the highway in Ampatuan when they heard reports about what was happening in Ampatuan. She said her husband met Dicay and companions along the highway but when he asked them, they denied.

The massacre happened 3.5 kilometers from the highway.

Maguid said her husband started investigating and had in fact talked to Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and the ARMM regional governor to surrender Andal, Jr., but he was relieved from the post the next day.  Andal Jr., was fetched in Shariff Aguak by then Secretary Jesus Dureza three days after the massacre, was flown to General Santos City for turn over to the Justice Secretary and from there flown to Manila on the same day.

The wives told MindaNews their husbands cooperated with the investigators, went to Manila in December 2009, returned to Maguindanao on December 31 that year, reported to their respective assignments,  as far as Butuan City for Sabang, and were brought back to Manila in February 2010 and were later detained even without the issuance of a warrant of arrest, inside the camp. They were moved to Camp Bagong Diwa on April 17, 2010, around the same time the other Ampatuans were flown in from Davao City and General Santos City.

The 1123 Advocates sought an audience with President Aquino in a letter dated December 17, 2010, received by the Office of the President on the 23rd.

The group’s letter, signed by Gladys Jiajorrah ALano-Solano, the group’s president, asked for a “thorough review of the authorities’ listing and identifying” of the people involved in the massacre.

The letter said their policemen-relatives were “unnecessarily accused and charged.”

Anwar Embalawa, nephew of Supt. Maguid, and a member of  1123 Advocates, told MindaNews they appealed to the President, the Justice Secretary and the CHR chair, the Philippine National Police chief, even held a picket in front of the Department of Justice.

“We made a request for an audience with PresidentAquino. It was denied. We were told the President’s schedule was fully booked and that our request had been forwarded to the DOJ. At the rally in DOJ, Secretary de Lima did not face us, she sent her chief of staff,” Emblawa said.

The group reiterated their appeal to the President through a manifesto sent to the Maguindanao Provincial Board on January 12, 2011.

“We suffered so much anxiety, anguish, and embarrassment for we are being ridiculted including our children, as families of murderers. We also suffered financial difficulties that (made) our children stop schooling because most of us rely mainly on the earnings or our husbands, brothers and sons,” the group said.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)