NBI assures security for another key witness to Maguindanao massacre

June 25, 2010 9:45 pm 

MANILA, June 25 –Following the death of an alleged key witness in the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre in Maguindanao, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) assured that another key witness under its custody is very much secured.

The NBI assured that key witness, Kenny Dalandag, is secured under the protective custody of the bureau.

Regional Director Ric Diaz, chief of NBI Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), said Dalandag was being secured round-the-clock. “Aside from the Dalandag, the NBI General Santos is also securing witnesses as well as families of the massacre victims,” he said.

Dalandag had tagged Zaldy Ampatuan, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as among those present at his father’s mansion when the crime was plotted on the eve of the massacre.

Acting Justice Alberto Agra directed NBI Director Nestor Mantaring to conduct a deeper investigation into the killing of Suwaid Upham on June 14 in Parang, Maguindanao.

The Acting Justice Secretary also defended the Department of Justice (DoJ) to the claim of lawyer Harry Roque that the department should be blamed for Upham's death for failure to place him in the witness protection program.

Agra said Roque was the one at fault as he never respected the authority of the public prosecutors.

Centerlaw, counsel for 14 media victims of the massacre, condemned the killing of Upham, who publicly surfaced under the name of “Jessie.”

Lawyer Harry Roque, of the Centerlaw, said "Jessie" was shot dead last June 14, 2010 in Parang, Maguindanao.

He surfaced in March of this year in a bid to be placed under the government's witness protection program.

Roque said he was never interviewed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) despite the having previously arranged twice to be interviewed by a panel from the Department.

In both instances, according to Roque, the department agreed on the time and date of the interview at a venue to be selected by “Jessie.” That initial and first interview was scheduled in the office and in the presence of Commissioner of Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima.

The personnel of the Witness Protection Program did not, however, appear on the agreed time and date stating belatedly that “Jessie” should appear in the premises of the DOJ.

Jessie refused to appear in the DOJ premises because Jessie himself had information that high-ranking officials of the Department were working with the Ampatuans.

In his narration before his counsel and the media, Jessie admitted that he was one of seven gunmen who shot and killed 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre. He identified the other gun men as including Andal ”Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., the latter’s cousins Kanor Ampatuan, Ban Ampatuan, and Mama Ampatuan; PO1 Ando Masukat and one he knew only as Kudja.

He publicly stated that members of the Ampatuan clan, including former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and ARRM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan ordered the killings.

Jessie said that among the first to be killed was the wife of Maguindanao Governor-Elect Toto Mangundadatu. He stated that after the first batch of killing, Unsay then ordered all seven gunmen to fire indiscriminately at all members of the ill-fated convoy, many of whom were still in their vehicles.

He also recounted how witnesses pleaded for their lives. Jessie also positively identified at least four members of the media as amongst the fatalities of the massacre. “Jessie” was in Manila for two months from March to April. He returned to Mindanao when it became apparent that the DOJ would not give him protection.

Roque blamed Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra for what happened to the witness. (PNA) RMA/JES

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