Cops admit massacre suspects hard to findBy DJ Yap, Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has admitted having a tough time hunting down 101 suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre who remain at large, in the wake of reports of witnesses and their relatives being killed one after another.
PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said the difficulty lay in hunting the fugitives given the vast province of Maguindanao.
“There are mountainous areas and deeply forested areas,” Cerbo told a briefing on Friday.
The other main challenge, he said, was that the suspects were being protected by their clans and communities, making it difficult for the police to enter places where the authorities were seen as the enemy.
The police have apprehended 96 of the 197 accused, including several members of the Ampatuan clan led by patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons, who are on trial for their alleged roles in the killing of 57 persons on Nov. 23, 2009, in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.
The body of the reported 58th victim, photojournalist Reynaldo Momay, has not been recovered.
Cerbo said he believed it was only a matter of time before the law caught up with all of the accused.
The official noted that the “big bosses” in the Ampatuan clan, or the principals in the case, were already behind bars.
Cerbo said the PNP was prepared to offer security to witnesses to the massacre, following reports of the killings. Six people—three witnesses and three relatives of other witnesses—have been killed in connection with the case.
Meanwhile, one of the accused in the mass murders who is due to be released to a guardian on grounds that he was a minor during the massacre is now claiming that he was of legal age then.
18 when it happened
Social welfare officer Anthony Quinagon, who had been tasked by a Quezon City court trying the Maguindanao massacre case to conduct a study on the accused, said he “consistently insisted that he was 18 years old when the alleged incident/offense happened.”
Quinagon has asked Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes for a dental age exam to be done on the accused to determine his true age to settle the matter.
Quinagon wrote the letter to comply with the court’s order in February that a case study be conducted on the accused, who had stayed for a while at the Molave Youth Home in Quezon City, which takes in children in conflict with the law.
The accused, allegedly a militiaman, was brought to the youth home on Feb. 9 as ordered by the court.
But he insisted on returning to the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, where he used to be detained with the other accused.