Another Ampatuan in 2009 massacre falls

COTABATO C ITY (MindaNews/26 March) – Another Ampatuan falls.

After two years in hiding,  Anwar “Datu Ipi” Ampatuan,  Jr., 23-year old grandson of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. who  was also  implicated in the November 23, 2009  massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, is now in police custody, guarded tightly in a hospital room where he was rushed after a homemade bomb exploded in the banca he and five others used while about to dock in Barangay Daladap, Mamasapano town, Maguindanao at around 2 p.m. Sunday.

The banca operator, still unidentified as of  Sunday afternoon, died in the blast while his six passengers, including Anwar Jr. and an alleged commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), were wounded.

Anwar Jr., who suffered shrapnel wounds on his back but declared out of danger Sunday night, is the eldest son of Shariff Aguak mayor Zahara Upam Ampatuan, whose husband, Anwar, Sr. was mayor until his arrest and detention, along with  his father and siblings, on December 5, 2009.

Despite his detention, however, Anwar Sr., three-term mayor, was elected vice mayor in 2010 and Anwar, Jr. who was in hiding since the massacre, was elected number one councilor along with siblings Anhara and Rowella.

Wanted for his alleged involvement in the massacre, Anwar Jr. carries a P300,000 bounty for his arrest.

Also injured was one Kumander Dagadas, whom the police identified as a commander of the MILF’s 118th base Command. MILF spokesperson Von Al Haq confirmed to  MindaNews that Dagadas is an MILF commander but added that “as to other details, we are closely investigating the incident for us to come up with an accurate report behind the incident.”

Earlier reports had indicated that some suspects in the 2009 massacre sought refuge in MILF areas but the MILF denied these allegations.

Chief Inspector Abubakar Mangelen, chief of the Maguindanao police, said the homemade bomb, brought along by the banca passengers, exploded while the banca was about to dock in the village fishport.

Upon  learning that her son was injured, Mayor Ampatuan  immediately phoned Col. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, chief of the 1st Mechanized Brigade in Shariff Aguak, to offer the surrender of her son and to have him hospitalized in Cotabato City.

Cruz escorted the suspect to the Notre Dame hospital here where he was turned over to the police at around 6 p.m.  Doctors immediately attended to Anwar, Jr.

Dagadas was reportedly rushed to another hospital. It is not clear where the four other injured were taken.

At the Note Dame hospital, Mangelen, along with the Criminal Intelligence and Detection Group, showed the warrant for Anwar Jr.’s arrest to his mother, Mayor Ampatuan.

“In our follow up investigation we found out there were people involved (in the explosion) that has warrants of arrests, so immediately we conducted investigation and as of the moment what  we can confirm is that there is an IED explosion in Mamasapano and there were already two identified victims including Mr. Ipi (Anwar, Jr.) Ampatuan and certain commander Dagadas of 118th base command of MILF… We explained to (Mayor Ampatuan) that she doesn’t need to sign or receive the document. What we are obligated is to show to her the warrant of arrest and to inform her that indeed a warrant of arrest is issued against her son”…

Cruz said the mayor phoned him to say her son was wounded and she would surrender him but requested that her son be rushed to the hospital. He said they brought her son to the hospital for humanitarian reasons.

Anwar Jr.’s name was not among the first list of suspects named in the multiple murder complaint. The two grandsons named in the first listing were Datu Bahnarim and Datu Ulo. Datu Bahnarin, son of Akmad and Rebecca Uy Ampatuan, was mayor of Mamasapano town at the time of the massacre. Bahnarin, also in hiding since the massacre, ran for mayor in the 2010 polls along with his brother Tahirodin Benzar. The latter won the mayoralty.

Both Bahnarin and Ulo are still at large.

Earlier, only nine Ampatuans were implicated in the 2009 massacre: Andal Ampatuan, Jr. aka Datu Unsay, was charged with multiple murder on December 1 while the rest were charged days later: the patriarch, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., Nords Ampatuan, Akmad Ampatuan, Saudi Ampatuan, Jr., Bahnarin A. Ampatuan, Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan, Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan, Sr. and Datu Zaldy “Puti” U. Ampatuan.

An amended complaint, however, was filed before the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 under Judge Josephine Reyes-Solis in early February 2010, implicating 19 other Ampatuans for a total of 28, only 12 of whom are prominent.

The panel of investigating prosecutors in a joint resolution dated February 5, 2010 said some of those “positively identified by witnesses” to have participated in the carnage included  “Datu Ipi Ampatuan,’’ whose real name is Anwar, Jr.

Security was tight in the hospital. Aside from the police, the 7th Marine Battalion Landing Team is also assisting in providing security.

“We will provide the appropriate security so there can be no escape or nothing untoward will happen to him,” Col. Dorotheo Jalandoni, commander of the 7th MBLT, said.  (Ferdinandh Cabrera with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)