Victims’ kin object to Zaldy’s plan to turn state witness

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 July)  — Relatives of the 58 victims of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre are objecting to the plan of Zaldy Ampatuan, suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and one of the principal accused, to turn state witness.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who lost 23 relatives, including his wife and two sisters, said Zaldy’s claims he had nothing to do with the massacre are contrary to what the witnesses said. Besides, he added,  if he was innocent, it’s been 19 months since the massacre. “Bakit ngayon pa siya nakonsyensa?” (Why is he conscience-stricken only now?), he told MindaNews.

“Sobrang ridiculous,” Ramonita Salaysay, whose husband  Napoleon, publisher of Clear view Gazette, was among the 32 media workers killed, told MindaNews. “Alam namin na may masamang plano ang mga principal accused. Hindi ako papayag, dahil yung mga witnesses na nagtestify against Ampatuan family ay enough na para patunayan na sila ang mga criminal. Alam namin na hindi yan sila titigil para lang dahandahan silang makalabas sa kulungan. Hindi kami papayag na mangyayari yun. No way” [We know the principal accused have evil pans. I will not agree (to Zaldy’s plan to turn state witness) because the witnesses who testified against the Ampatuan family are enough to prove they are the criminals. We know they will not stop until they can get out of jail].

Reynafe Momay-Castillo, daughter of Reynaldo, photographer of Midland Review in Tacurong City, asked: “kung totoo ang hangarin nya, bakit ngayon lang kasi naramdaman na niya na there is no way out?  (If his intentions are true, why only now? Because he feels there is no way out?)

“Kung kaya niyang ilaglag ang pamilya niya para sa sarili e di ba dapat talaga tayo magduda sa motibo.. Dapat sa umpisa pa lang or bago nangyari yon nagsalita na cya, not just now” (If he can betray his family, shouldn’t we doubt his motives? He should have, at the start or before the massacre happened, spoken up, not just now), she told MindaNews.

Lakmodin Saliao, a former aide of the Ampatuans, had earlier said in his affidavit that Zaldy was present in the planning.  This was corroborated by a testimony of former Vice Mayor Sukarno Badal.

“No solid justification”

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol that there is “no solid justification” for Zaldy to turn state witness.

“That is a very sensitive issue. The laws have rigid requirements when it comes to turning an accused into a state witness,” she said.

De Lima added Zaldy has to contend with the private complainants. “I don’t think they will agree,” she said.

Only last week,  Remberto Villanueva, Zaldy’s lawyer, denied reports that his client was planning to turn into a state witness.

“Hindi po totoo iyan. To begin with, wala pong kinalaman ang client ko sa kaso,” GMANews.TV  quoted Villanueva as telling reporters.

“Hindi po siya puwede maging eye witness or any kind of witness for that matter,” Villanueva said,

The report also quoted Zaldy’s other lawyer, Howard Calleja, as saying his client, who no longer stays in the same detention cell with his father and siblings, was transferred to another cell in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City, due to medical concerns and not due to his reported spat with his relatives.

In Zaldy’s interview aired over ABS-CBN Monday, he said his own family had suffered much.

He said his children, Bai Noraillah Kristin, 21; Prince Sufri Norabbie, 18; Bai Noraldy, 14; and Datu Zaldy “Nurhassan” Jr. have petitioned the courts that they would rather use the last name of their mother, Midtimbang.

His wife, Bai Johaira “Bongbong” Midtimbang, is now mayor of Datu Hoffer town. His eldest daughter is councilor.

At least 12 prominent members of the clan are implicated in the massacre, six of them detained in Bicutan, Metro Manila (the patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr., who won a third term as Governor but who resigned in January 2009 and reassumed as OIC Governor shortly before the massacre, and his children: Andal Ampatuan, Jr., mayor of Datu Unsay town at the time of the massacre;  Zaldy; Datu Anwar, then mayor of Shariff Aguak; and Sajid, then former Vice Governor and OIC Governor; and the patriarch’s son in law, Datu Akmad M. Ampatuan, former Mamasapano mayor who was OIC Vice Governor at the time of the massacre) while six others are still at large: grandsons Saudi Jr., Bahnarin and Datu Anwar “Ipi” Ampatuan, Jr.; Kanor Datumanong Ampatuan , Datu Mama Ampatuan and Datu Norodin Ampatuan.

Election winners

Andal Sr., lost his bid for the vice gubernatorial post in May 2010.  Andal Junior, who would have run for governor, dug his own political grave on November 23, 2009, when he allegedly led about a hundred armed men in stopping along the national highway in Ampatuan town, and killing all those who joined the convoy that would have brought the certificate of candidacy of his then potential rival, Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in the next town, Shariff Aguak.

Zaldy’s term as ARMM Governor would have ended on September 30 this year. His vice governor assumed his post days after his arrest in December 2009.

Zaldy’s wife, Bai Johaira “Bongbong” Midtimbang is now mayor of Datu Hoffer town in Maguindanao while eldest daughter Bai Noraillah Kristina, is councilor. Both ran unopposed in the May 2010 polls.

Andal Junior’s first wife, Bai Reshal Santiago-Ampatuan is now mayor of Datu Unsay town. .

Bai Zahara Upam, wife of Anwar Ampatuan, Sr., then the mayor of Shariff Aguak town, is now mayor. Anwar Sr. won the vice mayoralty.

Three of their children are councilors in Shariff Aguak: Anhara, Anwar Jr. (also known as Datu Ipi) and Rowella while another child, Manny Upam Ampatuan, ran for and won as councilor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

When Zahara assumed the mayoralty, Anwar Sr. was already detained so under the law of succession, the first councilor succeeds – Anwar, Jr., who  is also implicated in the massacre, and who is at large. A sibling, Anhara, ranked second and is now vice mayor.

Sajid, the youngest son of the Ampatuan patriarch, was OIC Governor from January 2009 to shortly before the massacre, when Andal Senior took over. Sajid ran for and won a seat in the Provincial Board while his wife, Bai Zandria Sinsuat Ampatuan won as mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha even before election day. The Comelec disqualified her lone opponent, Mando Kambal Bituanen, for allegedly not being a resident of the area.

In Mamasapano, as in other towns, the Ampatuans fielded two candidates to ensure victory. Mayor Baharin Ampatuan, implicated in the massacre but still at large, ran for mayor along with his brother Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan and two other candidates.

Tahirodin Benzar Ampatuan won.

And so did their father, Akmad “Tato” Masukat Ampatuan, Sr., husband of the patriarch’s eldest daughter, Rebecca.

Tato was elected Mamasapano mayor in 2007 but appointed in early 2009 by his brother in law, ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, to become OIC Vice Governor of Maguindanao. Tato ran for vice mayor of Mamasapano in the May 2010 polls against his daughter Lady Sha-honey and two others. He won. But like Anwar Ampatuan, Sr., he is detained so the number one councilor takes his post. The number one councilor is also an Ampatuan, Mahir M. Ampatuan.

Saudi Jr., also implicated in the massacre, ran and won another term as mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan. His brother, Saudi III, won the vice mayoralty while Saudi’s wife Jehan-jehan Lepail is number one councilor.

Saudi Jr., is at large so his brother Saudi III assumed his post.  Jehan-Jehan assumed the post of vice mayor.

Saudi’s mother, Soraida, ran for and won the vice mayoralty of Parang town.

In Datu Salibo town, two other Ampatuans implicated in the massacre won: Kanor as vice mayor and Mama as councilor. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)