Mangudadatu’s aide killed; link to Ampatuan trial probedBy Edwin Fernandez
COTABATO CITY—An aide of Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu was shot and killed on Saturday amid a string of killings targeting witnesses in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, police said Sunday.
Police said they were investigating whether the shooting of Said Salik in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, was related to the trial of the politically influential Ampatuan clan accused in the massacre of 57 people, including Mangudadatu’s wife and relatives and 31 journalists.
Salik, 65, was driving his car with his wife and children when he was shot by two men riding a motorcycle in tandem on the Isulan national highway, police said. The wife and children suffered injuries.
Inspector Benjamin Mauricio, the regional police spokesperson, described Salik as a consultant to Mangudadatu.
Mauricio said the motive for the killing remained unclear, but stressed that investigators were attempting to determine if the incident was related to the massacre.
Colonel Prudencio Asto, spokesperson for the military’s 6th Infantry Division in Cotabato City, said the 601st Infantry Brigade based in Tacurong City was helping the Philippine National Police force in hunting the assailants.
Reports reaching the 6th ID said Salik, a former town mayor and member of the Moro National Liberation Front, was ambushed at about 5 p.m. near the warehouse of the National Food Authority. He was heading toward Maguindanao.
Salik was declared dead on arrival at the hospital while his wife and children were treated of injuries.
The attack on Mangudadatu’s aide came two days after the Maguindanao governor testified at the trial of the Ampatuans. He recounted that he talked to his wife who was pleading for help moments before she was killed.
Mangudadatu’s wife was en route to the election commission’s office to file his candidacy for governor accompanied by journalists and friends when they were seized by members of a private army controlled by the Ampatuans and later slaughtered.
The Ampatuans had ruled Maguindanao for a decade, under the patronage of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who used the clan’s private army as a buffer against Moro guerrillas.
The Ampatuans saw Mangudadatu as a threat to the family’s power, and ordered the massacre as a means to stop their rival’s political ambitions, prosecutors said.
The clan’s patriarch, former Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and several of his sons are among 196 people charged with conspiring to commit the murder, although police said over 100 suspects remained at large.
As the trial goes through the notoriously slow Philippine court system, three witnesses to the crime have been murdered.
Three relatives of other witnesses have also been killed, in what rights groups said was a clear pattern to silence anyone who dared testify against the Ampatuan clan.
Last week, Mangudadatu’s lawyer, Nena Santos, announced that police had confirmed that a potential witness to the massacre, Alijol Ampatuan, who disappeared in February had been killed. Alijol was described as a distant relative of the Ampatuans.
In July last year, Esmael Amil Enog, a former militiaman who turned state witness, testified that Alijol had ordered him to bring 36 gunmen to the site of the massacre on the day the slaughter took place.
Authorities later said Enog himself was subsequently killed, his body cut to pieces and placed in a sack.
In June 2010, Suwaib Upham, also a militiaman who claimed to have participated in the massacre, was gunned down before he qualified for state witness protection. With a report from AFP
Originally posted: 4:01 pm | Sunday, July 1st, 2012