Skeletal remains of chainsaw victims, arms cache exhumed in Maguindanao

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao (MindaNews/9 May) – Two bodies of alleged victims of chainsaw killings by the Ampatuan clan and a cache of high-powered firearms were exhumed last Saturday by government operatives in a remote area of Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao.

The remains, as well as the 10 M-16 and one M-14 rifles, were unearthed after a tip from a yet unnamed asset, authorities said. The site was less than three kilometers away from the mansions of the Ampatuans, the suspected masterminds of the infamous November 23, 2009 massacre in the municipality of Ampatuan that killed 58 people, including 32 media persons.

“These two bodies most probably belong to victims Murad Bajunaid and Harod Abdullah. It’s an open secret here that they were killed on the orders of the Ampatuans,” said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who rushed coming here along with teams from the National Bureau of Investigation to personally see the remains.

The victims, believed killed in 2003, were reportedly relatives of an Ampatuan archrival – Zacaria Candao, who was once governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Maguindanao.

De Lima said the government wants to find out exactly the extent of the atrocities committed by the Ampatuans. “We know there are credible reports of previous atrocities,” she stressed.

The bodies were found under the shade of mango, banana and coconut trees at Sitio Damalibi, Barangay Satan of this municipality which authorities said is near an area controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Col. Mayoralga Dela Cruz, of the 1st Mechanized Brigade of the Arm’s 6th Infantry Division, said they coordinated with the MILF before coming here because this is near an area under the control of the Moro rebel group. “We’re glad they’re willing to cooperate,” he added.

Upon arrival in the area, De Lima’s team had to wait until members of the Army’s explosive ordnance unit defused two improvised explosive devices attached to the arms cache.

De Lima expressed elation that more and more witnesses have gained the strength to provide information on the atrocities of the Ampatuans to authorities. (Ferdie Cabrera / MindaNews)