Maguindanao-owned back hoe allegedly used in burying massacre victims – police

November 24, 2009 2:40 pm 

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Nov. 24 – A back hoe allegedly owned by the provincial government of Maguindanao was reportedly used in burying some of the journalists and members of the Mangudadatu family who were brutally killed Monday morning at the outskirts of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province.

Senior Supt. Willie Dangane, Cotabato City police director, said they found the abandoned heavy equipment Tuesday morning positioned near the scattered remains of some of the victims and a cliff that appeared to be freshly filled with soil at the vicinity of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town.

The back hoe reportedly carried the name of the provincial government of Maguindanao and Gov. Andal Ampatuan.

“They could have used (the back hoe) in dumping and burying the bodies of the victims,” said Dangane, who joined the ongoing joint police and military retrieval operations in the area.

As of noon Tuesday, he said the official body count of the victims remained at 22 but said they are still trying to locate some of the missing persons who were believed to be part of a six-vehicle convoy stopped by armed men at a portion of the national highway in Barangay Saniag in Ampatuan town at around 9:00 a.m. Monday.

Dangane, who earlier served as police director in General Santos City and Sarangani province, said he was still trying to locate some of the missing journalists, who were mostly from the cities of General Santos and Koronadal.

Citing their initial investigation at the scene, he said the freshly covered cliff reportedly appeared to have something buried within.

“Right now, the provincial engineering personnel (of Sultan Kudarat provincial government) are digging up the site,” he said.

About a hundred armed men reportedly held and later killed two women lawyers, over two dozen journalists and members of the Mangudadatu family who were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor of Buluan Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu at the Commission on Elections provincial office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

The suspects, who were tagged as hired guns of the Ampatuan family, initially stopped the convoy and brought them at gunpoint to the vicinity of Barangays Salman and Malating, which is about 10 kilometers from the national highway.

So far, Dangane said most of the remains of the 22 victims found at the site have already been identified by their relatives, who were brought to the area this morning by personnel from the provincial government of Sultan Kudarat.

Among those earlier confirmed killed were Buluan Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu’s wife Jenalyn, his sister-in-law and currently Mangudadatu town Vice Mayor Eden, their youngest sister Bai Farina and his cousins Zorayda Bernan, Raida Sapalon and Rowena Ante Mangudadatu.

The retrieval team also found the gun-riddled bodies of lawyers Connie Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo, as well as journalists Alejandro “Bong” Reblando of Manila Bulletin, Henry Araneta of DZRH as well as freelancers Marife Montano, Maritess Cablitas, Rey Merescon and Jun Legarta.

Still missing were Bombo Radyo Koronadal’s chief reporter Bart Maravilla, Ian Subang of Pilipino Star Ngayon and several other local reporters.

Radio station Bombo Radyo Koronadal reported this afternoon that at least four persons who supposedly survived the carnage were now in the custody of the Vice Mayor Mangudadatu.

But police and Army officials in the area said they could not yet verify the report as Vice Mayor Mangudadatu has not yet reported the matter to them. (PNA)

FFC/AVE

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