New murder raps vs 87 AmpatuansPhilippine Daily Inquirer
COTABATO CITY—More than 80 members of the Ampatuan clan, including former Maguindanao Governor Andal Sr., and their supporters were charged with murder before the Maguindanao prosecutor’s office.
Rodolfo Yanson, Maguindanao prosecutor, said this time, the complaint was over the massacre of eight people, including a Moro rebel returnee, in Shariff Aguak town on Aug. 8, 2008.
Yanson said he had ordered the elder Ampatuan and the other accused—numbering 87—to answer the complaints by the son and wife of Datu Itaw Gayun, a former Moro National Liberation Front commander.
Yanson said based on the complaint, Gayun and seven of his farmhands were working in Barangay Takepan in Shariff Aguak when more than 70 armed men identified with the Ampatuan clan arrived and peppered them with bullets.
A witness, whom the Gayun family had secured, said the armed men were led by Datu Kanor Ampatuan.
The witness, whose name the Inquirer has been withholding for security reasons, had claimed he and other villagers even helped bury Gayun and the other victims.
But Benzar Ampatuan, spokesperson of the Ampatuan clan and current mayor of Mamasapano town, described the new complaint as “shotgun.”
He said while only Kanor was identified by the alleged witness, Andal and other Ampatuan clan members had been included for obvious reasons.
“We will file our counteraffidavit soon. Hopefully, the truth will come out. This is politically motivated,” he told reporters during a separate interview.
Benzar said the filing of the charges also came as the filing of certificates of candidacy for elective local posts for next year’s election was nearing.
The Ampatuan clan had ruled Maguindanao for several decades and its members were accused of various forms of abuses, from killings to land grabbing.
Their iron grip on the province came to an abrupt end with the murder of 32 journalists and over 20 members of the Mangudadatu clan in November 2009.
What was to become the infamous Maguindanao massacre was part of the clan’s alleged effort to prevent then Buluan Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu to wrestle power from the Ampatuan patriarch.
The incident did not deter Mangudadatu and pushed his bid for the province’s governorship. He won while most of the Ampatuans had been arrested and jailed over the 2009 massacre.
The cases against them in connection with the Maguindanao massacre remain undecided to this day. Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao