Daughter in Ampatuan Massacre case bares P3-M ‘bribe offer’

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 February)— A daughter of one of the victims of the grisly massacre in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao in 2009 which killed 58 people, including 32 media workers, on Sunday asked for prayers for the safety of her mother.

Maria Priscilla Reblando-Zainal, daughter of slain Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, said her mother, Myrna P. Reblando, is in “danger of getting killed allegedly on orders of the Ampatuan clan,” some members of whom were implicated in the shocking Nov. 23, 2009 massacre.

Reblando is the vice chair of the Justice Now Movement, the association of the families of media workers who were victims of the massacre. She is one of the most vocal in calling for the conviction of the Ampatuans.

Zainal said a paternal uncle, a policeman, was assigned to a place in Maguindanao where the Ampatuans have supporters and purportedly learned about a P3-million bribe offer for her mother to withdraw from the case.

“If she will not agree, the money will be used as bounty for the head of my mom,” Zainal said in an email.

Further complicating their safety concerns, Zainal said, was the petition filed by the Butuyan and Roque Law Firm before the Court of Appeals seeking the inhibition of the judge hearing the petitions of Zaldy U. Ampatuan, suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and his cousin Akmad Ampatuan, former mayor of Mamasapano town, to be excluded from the case.

“Do pray for the safety of my mom and to my family and relatives,” she said, adding this development would “surely infuriate further the Ampatuans.”

Early this month, the Court of Appeals’ Special 11th Division junked the petition of the patriarch, former Maguindanao governor Andal S. Ampatuan, Sr., to be excluded from the massacre case.

“After a careful scrutiny of the records of this case, we find and so hold that there is no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the Department of Justice…On this note, the petitioner’s main petition, as well as the supplemental petition, must therefore necessarily fail for lack of merit,” portions of the 27-page decision read.

Associate Justice Noel Tijam penned the decision which Associate Justices Antonio Villamor and Amy Lazaro-Javier concurred with.

Ampatuan is currently detained at a maximum prison facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, along with son Andal U. Ampatuan, Jr, the former mayor of Datu Unsay town who allegedly led some 100 gunmen in brutally killing the victims.

Other clan members in detention in connection with the massacre are Zaldy Ampatuan, former Shariff Aguak mayor Anwar Ampatuan, former Maguindanao vice governor Sajid Ampatuan, and former Mamasapano  mayor Akmad Ampatuan.

The Ampatuan Massacre was the worst election-related violence in the country and the largest single deadly attack against the media worldwide.

Former Buluan vice mayor Esmael G. Mangudadatu had sent his wife and several relatives to file his certificate of candidacy for governor. They were flagged down and eventually slaughtered in Ampatuan town. The media workers were there to cover the filing.

Mangudadatu eventually won the gubernatorial race. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)