Star witness links 2 Ampatuans to massacreBy Philip C. Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines–A star witness in the Maguindanao massacre case on Wednesday positively identified in court two members of the Ampatuan clan and linked them to the killings.
Lakmodin Saliao, who claimed to be a former aide of primary suspect and former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr, returned to the witness stand and identified Anwar Ampatuan and Akmad Ampatuan among a dozen accused present in court on Wednesday.
“My name is Anwar Ampatuan,” Anwar told Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Regional Trial Court Branch 221 during the trial after Saliao pointed to him in the gallery.
The witness claimed that it was Anwar, a son of Andal Sr., who hid his brother and primary suspect Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. in the mountains of Datu Hofer town in Maguindanao hours after the killings.
The massacre on Nov. 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, left 57 persons dead, many of them members of the press. The body of reported 58th victim, photojournalist Reynaldo Momay, has not been found to this day.
“(They were in Datu Hofer) to hide Unsay from the military,” Saliao said at the hearing held in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City.
Saliao reiterated the previous testimony he gave the court in September 2010 that he was with Andal Sr. on the day of the massacre.
He said he was in constant contact with Anwar especially after Andal Sr. talked to Anwar through his cellular phone and told him to meet Unsay and flee from the massacre site.
“We we’re always talking with each other because we were monitoring their whereabouts in Datu Hofer,” Saliao said.
Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes then asked Saliao why Unsay had to hide from the authorities.
“Because he was the primary suspect in the Maguindanao massacre,” Saliao said.
Saliao also affirmed his previous testimony that he was present when the Ampatuans and their supporters allegedly met on the night of Nov. 17, 2009 at the clan’s farm in Barangay Bagong, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.
“That is why we’re all here–to plan how to stop Toto Mangudadatu from filing his CoC (certificate of candidacy),” Saliao had quoted the clan patriarch as saying.
It was then that Andal Jr. supposedly replied: “That is easy, father. Kill them all if they come here.”
Saliao said former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Amptuan, another son of Andal Sr., then told those present that “If that is what we’re [talking] about, we should plan it carefully so that we won’t be discovered.”
“That is why we are here. It is shameful for the Ampatuan clan to have someone challenge them,” Anwar allegedly said.
Akmad then allegedly said: “We will listen to father. It is OK with us if all of them are killed.”
Saliao also pointed to Akmad in court on Wednesday. The respondent then told Judge Reyes: “I am Akmad Ampatuan.”
An argument then ensued in court when defense lawyer Paris Real, the counsel of Anwar and Akmad, said he was not ready to cross examine Saliao because the prosecutors informed him only on Tuesday that Saliao was testifying.
He said the court had previously ordered that the defense should be informed seven days before a witness is recalled to testify.
“I am not superman. I have to go over the 342 pages of (Saliao’s previous) testimony,” Real said.
But lead Prosecutor Peter Medalle pointed out that, although he was then representing other accused, Real was already present in court when Saliao first testified almost two years ago.
“It’s the same testimony. He’s just not ready to cross examine. A PAO (Public Attorney’s Office) lawyer could do better,” Medalle said.
Prosecutor Reyes said the seven-day notice requirement was meant for new defense lawyers and not for defense counsels who had been with the case for a long time.
Also on Wednesday, private complainant Noemi Parcon, the widow of massacre victim and journalist Joel Parcon of Prontiera News, also returned to the witness stand and testified that her family spent at least P154,500 for his burial.
She also presented in court the birth certificates of their three children.
The trial resumes Thursday in Quezon City with a National Bureau of Investigation official scheduled to testify.