News of bombs found creates stir during Ampatuan Massacre commemoration

MASSACRE SITE, Ampatuan, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 23 Nov) – Despite strict security measures at the massacre gravesite here, and the cooling effect of the trees planted beside it and the better access road, those who came to commemorate the third anniversary of the infamous Ampatuan Massacre were startled by the news of the discovery of a bomb planted on a motorcycle in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, where the convoy passed by earlier.

The news came upon the arrival of Pandag Mayor Sajid Mangudadatu, brother of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who was late because of the detour he had to take to ensure his safety.

The police in Isulan earlier reported that bomb experts from the province’s Explosives and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team defused the two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) hidden inside the baggage compartment of a Bajaj motorcycle parked near the round ball at the Isulan poblacion.

Supt. Roel Sermese, Isulan police chief, said one IED was fashioned from an 81mm mortar and the other from a 60mm mortar.

“We wanted to pass through the road where the bombs were discovered, but the police and the military wouldn’t let us, supposedly for our safety. We didn’t force the issue and looked for a detour instead,” Mayor Mangudadatu said.

Sermese said they have yet to determine the motive and the group who planted the IEDs, but did not discount the possibility that the bombs were planted to inflict harm on those who joined the commemorative rites here.

In last year’s anniversary, when the group of Gov. Mangudadatu visited the site to commemorate the deaths of 58 people, including his wife and relatives, two IEDs planted along the highway near the massacre site were also discovered and defused by bomb experts.

The ceremony went peacefully, with ecumenical prayers, led by Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, for the Catholics, Muslims and other religions. Relatives and friends offered roses, lit candles and released white balloons into the sky.

But after the program, a commotion again happened when police accosted a suspicious-looking young man whom they believe were among those involved in the massacre.

He identified himself as Haimen Mamasabuyan, a student at the Cotabato State Polytechnic College.

“We were alerted that he was among those involved in the massacre, but we still have to verify that, so we invited him to come with us to the precinct,” said Supt. Jaime Pido, chief of the Maguindanao police.

Pido clarified it was not an arrest but just putting Mamasabuyan in their custody while they verify things. (Ferdinandh Cabrera, with Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)