‘Tell Ampatuan to stop it, please’
“Many have been killed. We’re next.”
This was one of the last text messages that lawyer Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon sent out in a desperate cry for help just before she was killed with 56 others in the infamous Maguindanao massacre of November 2009, her brother told the court Thursday.
Policeman Raymundo Oquendo, a state witness at the massacre trial being conducted in Bicutan, Taguig, testified that his sister sent text messages to her colleague, lawyer Arnold Oclarit, on the morning of Nov. 23, 2009, the day of the massacre, and asked him to contact Ampatuan lawyer, Tomas Falque III, for help.
“Advise client Ampatuan to stop it, please. We might get killed. Please tell Tom,” Raymundo recalled one of Cynthia’s text messages as saying. He said the “Tom” referred to was Falque.
“As I understood the message, (it was to) tell Falque to advise his client Ampatuan to stop firing as they might be killed,” Raymundo said.
Cynthia’s father, Catalino, was with her in the Mangudadatu convoy that was ambushed allegedly by the Ampatuan clan, and was also killed in the massacre that followed.
Cynthia sent another text message that said: “Many have been killed. We’re next. Tell Tom.”
Abandoned MNLF camp
Raymundo said another text message from his sister mentioned an “MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) camp.”
The massacre site in Sitio (sub village) Masalay, Barangay (village) Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao is near an abandoned MNLF camp.
Raymundo said he read the text messages in Oclarit’s cell phone after he rushed to Oclarit’s office on the morning of Nov. 23, 2009, after having been told that Cynthia had been “kidnapped.”
“(Oclarit) told me that he received text messages from Cynthia just before I arrived … Oclarit showed me the text messages,” Raymundo said.
“When I read the text messages, I felt nervous… shocked to learned that my sister was in danger of being killed,” he added. He did not know then that their father was with her.
Raymundo admitted that he did not see the time when the text messages were sent but was sure that it was on the morning of Nov. 23, 2009. The Mangudadatu convoy was allegedly stopped in Barangay Salman at around 10 a.m. and the vehicle’s passengers mowed down an hour later.
Defense lawyers, led by Sigfrid Fortun, objected to Raymundo’s testimony, saying Oclarit’s cell phone should have been presented in court.
Prosecutor Grace Ruiz, who conducted Raymundo’s direct testimony, later presented to the court a Sony Ericsson cell phone that was supposed to be Cynthia’s but it was turned off.
Defense lawyers also objected when Raymundo told the court that Oclarit later informed him that he was able to talk to Falque.
Falque allegedly said that he was able to contact Norie Unas, the Maguindanao provincial administrator, but Unas said that he could not contact the Ampatuans.
“That’s double hearsay,” Fortun said.
Five policemen—Abibudin Abdulgani, Hamad Nana, Esmael Guilal, Oscar Donato and Abdullah Baguadatu— were arraigned at yesterday’s hearing for their alleged participation in the massacre. They pleaded not guilty to the 57 counts of murder filed against them.
Accused rose to 69
With the arraignment of the five policemen, the number of those formally accused in the case has risen to 69. The government has so far captured only 93 of the 196 suspects in the case.
Meanwhile, the jail guards at the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, prevented cameramen from taking pictures inside the jail compound before the hearing started, drawing protests from members of the media.
The jail guards said it was a new policy to improve security in the jail compound. The hearing next week will be held at the Quezon City hall of justice.
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