MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine National Police (PNP) has recommended the summary dismissal of seven police officers for serious neglect of duty that may have led to the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao and to the eventual attempts at a cover-up.
Recommended for summary dismissal were Superintendent Abusama Mundas Maguid, officer-in-charge of the Maguindanao police; Chief Inspector Sukarno Adil Dikay, deputy provincial police director; Inspector Armando Sanday Mariga, group director of the 1506th Provincial Mobile Group; Inspector Saudi Matabalao Mokamad, group director of the 1507th Provincial Mobile Group; Inspector Rex Ariel Tabao Diongon, group director of the 1508th Provincial Mobile Group; Senior Inspector Abdulgapor Benasing Abad, commanding officer of the 15th Regional Mobile Group; and SPO2 Badawi Piang Bakal, OIC of the Ampatuan municipal police station.
The Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division (RIDMD) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao regional police made the recommendation, citing the inaction of the Maguindanao police officers despite being informed of radio and television reports on the abduction and killings.
Investigation showed that the Maguindanao police had claimed "no such incidents have transpired in their area of jurisdiction" and even branded the radio reports as "exaggerated."
The RIDMD dispatched a team to Maguindanao to verify the reports, which turned out to be accurate.
The RIDMD also found that the Maguindanao police had deployed forces along the highway where the victims' convoy was waylaid by armed men believed to have been led by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.
Investigators said it was suspicious that the policemen claimed to have not heard any gunfire or noticed anything unusual even if they were only about five kilometers from where the abduction and killings took place.
"Hence, it strengthens the presumption that they (subject police officers) were trying to cover up the crime committed," the RIDMD report to Camp Crame said.
"The failure of Superintendent. Abusama Maguid to take preventive or corrective action before, during and after the said incident made him accountable under the doctrine of command responsibility as mandated by Executive Order No. 226," the RIDMD report read.
The RIDMD quoted a provision in EO 226, stating that "any government official or officer of the PNP or that of any law enforcement agency shall be held accountable for 'Neglect of Duty' under the Doctrine Of Command Responsibility, if he has knowledge that a crime or an offense shall be committed, is committed, or has been committed by his subordinates, or by others within his area of responsibility, and, despite such knowledge, he did not take preventive or corrective action either before, during or immediately after its commission."
Killed in the Nov. 23 carnage were the wife and female relatives of Buluan town Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, dozens of journalists, and two lawyers.
The victims' convoy was on its way to the Shariff Aguak capitol where Mangudadatu's wife was to file his certificate of candidacy for governor to challenge Andal Jr. when it was blocked by armed men.
Witnesses said Andal Jr. himself shot many of the victims, many of them begging for their lives.
The assailants, using a provincial government-owned backhoe, tried to bury the victims, some of them still in their vehicles.
The gunmen, however, fled without finishing their job when news of the massacre reached authorities and a truck of soldiers headed to the site of the massacre.
More than 250 people are facing multiple murder charges for the massacre, including the Ampatuan patriarch Andal Sr.
The Ampatuans' alliance with the Arroyo administration had earned them the privilege of acquiring an arsenal of high-powered weapons and ordnance as well as maintaining a private army, which they had reportedly used to keep themselves in power.
The government had used the powerful clan and its armed loyalists as "force multipliers" against secessionist groups in Mindanao.