Police frees vegetable vendor mistaken for massacre suspect

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/26 May) — The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao has released from its custody a vegetable vendor from this city who was arrested last Friday after being tagged as among the suspects in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers.

Senior Supt. Pedro Austria, CIDG Region 12 director, said Thursday they unconditionally freed vendor Dadtungan Ampatuan Mamasapano on Wednesday following the verification of his  identity.

Mamasapano, he said, is not Kamper Silongan alias Jun, who was among the 195 persons ordered arrested by a Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) in connection with the massacre.

“His (Mamasapano) physical features and fingerprints did not actually match with those of Silongan so we released him unconditionally,” Austria said in a radio interview.

He said Mamasapano also presented several witnesses and identification documents.

The police confirmed through local sources that Mamasapano has been a resident of Purok Islam in Barangay Dadiangas South since 1986 and has been working as a vegetable vendor at the city’s central public market.

“I’m just grateful that I was able to convince them that I’m innocent and that they arrested the wrong person,” Mamasapano told reporters following his release from the CIDG-12 detention facility here.

He said he would immediately go back to work at the public market here and proceed with his normal routine.

Mamasapano, initially identified by police operatives as Silongan, was arrested at around 10:45am last Friday at the Queen Tuna Park here.

Silongan is among those charged with 57 counts of murder and ordered arrested by Quezon City RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes in connection with the killing of 58 people, including 32 journalists, in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

Fifty-seven bodies were retrieved. The remains of the 58th victim have yet to be found but for his dentures.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), through DILG Memorandum Circular 2010-53, had offered a reward of P250,000 for Silongan’s arrest.

Silongan was allegedly a member of a private armed group who directly participated in the mass murders on orders of  then Datu Unsay, Maguindanao mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the principal suspect.

The Department of Justice earlier filed 57 counts of murder charges against Andal Jr., former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Sr., suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, former acting Maguindanao Gov. Sajid Ampatuan, several other members of the clan and more than 180 civilian volunteers and militiamen in connection with the massacre.

The victims were on their way to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Shariff Aguak to file the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who was running for governor of Maguindanao when stopped by about a hundred armed men led by Andal, Jr. and brought to a hilly portion nearby, where they were killed. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)