Triggerman tags Ampatuans

() - March 10, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A man claiming to be one of the triggermen in the murder of 57 people in Maguindanao last year surfaced yesterday and tagged Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his father, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., as among those behind the massacre.

“Jessie,” not his real name, said his statement was prepared with the assistance of his lawyer.

Since he came from a poor family, he only reached grade one and could neither read nor write, he added.

Jessie said he was one of seven men who shot the victims with high-powered firearms in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town.

Although about 200 people manned the checkpoint in Sitio Malating, Barangay Salman, only 26 accompanied the convoy to the hilly portion of Sitio Masalay, he added.

Jessie said of the 26, Ampatuan Jr. assigned the seven to shoot the victims: himself, Ampatuan Jr., Datu Kanor, Datu Ban, Datu Mama, a certain Kudja, and a police officer whom he knew to be Police Officer 1 Ando Masukat.

“The last two men were part of Datu Unsay’s close-in security personnel,” he said.

“Three of us shooters were armed with Baby M203 rifle grenade launchers - myself, Datu Ban and Datu Unsay; Datu Mama held an AK-47 rifle; Datu Kanor, a K-3 light machinegun.

“Both Kudja and Ando Masukat were armed with M16 Armalite rifles. The rest of the men (were) also heavily-armed.”

When The STAR contacted Ampatuan Jr.’s counsel, Sigfrid Fortun, he said: “Contrived and rehearsed witnesses always surface late.”

Jessie said he decided to come forward because he feared the Ampatuans would also kill him, and that he does not want the secret buried with him.

“Sometime in January 2010, I decided to leave our designated safehouse after I learned that I, too, had been marked for liquidation,” he said.

“I know what Datu Unsay is capable of doing. But I do not want the secrets of the Ampatuans buried with me.”

Several bodyguards and drivers of the Ampatuans were killed after the massacre to prevent them from telling the truth, he added.

Jessie said Ampatuan Jr. assigned him to his cousin Datu Kanor, with whom he had worked closely.

“The two datus were inseparable,” he said.

“They were like brothers. Not only were their houses in Ampatuan town within a stone’s throw of each other, they were always together, so much so that wherever they went, I went too.”

Ampatuan Sr. met with Ampatuan Jr., Datu Kanor, Datu Mama and some others and instructed them to prepare their men because Esmael Mangudadatu would be filing his certificate of candidacy in Shariff Aguak, the witness said.

Mangudadatu must be stopped, he quoted Ampatuan Sr. as saying.

Jessie said Datu Kanor had deployed auxiliaries under him on Nov. 21, 2009.

“At least 200 men with regular PNP personnel worked side-by-side with the auxiliaries, Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) men, as well as Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) men.

“It was the largest operation of its kind I have ever seen since working for the Ampatuans, who even deployed two Sangukus - armored trucks bristling with .50 caliber and .30 caliber machineguns.”

Jessie said Datu Kanor manned the road block placed along the highway with Supt. Sukarno Dicay, and that the Mangudadatus showed up late on the morning of Nov. 23.

“I could not tell exactly what time it was, I don’t know how to read time, but the sun was already high up in the sky,” he said.

“Datu Unsay wasn’t there when we stopped Mangudadatu’s convoy of five vehicles. He had to be called in by handheld radio.”

Datu Kanor and his men seized the video cameras from media people in the lead vehicle, he added.

Jessie said shortly after, Datu Unsay arrived, toting a baby M203 rifle grenade launcher. He headed for the third van, which carried the Mangudadatus.

“I saw Datu Unsay hit Genalyn Mangudadatu with the butt of his rifle on the left cheek,” he said.

“She staggered and gave a cry of pain. She cursed Datu Unsay. Then they (victims) were herded back into the vehicles.”

Jessie said Genalyn Mangudadatu refused to follow Ampatuan Jr., and instead knelt on the ground that made the mayor angry. He aimed his baby M203 rifle grenade launcher at her back and fired pointblank on full automatic mode.

“Go, fight,” Jessie quoted Ampatuan Jr. as telling the victims.

Jessie said Ampatuan Jr. then shouted to his men to start shooting.

“I pulled the trigger - we all pulled the trigger and we all fired on full automatic mode,” he said.

“We stood so close to our victims that when we stopped shooting, we were all drenched in blood and bits of human remains - brain matter, bone splinters, strips of skin.

“I did not know shooting people at such a close range could do that to you. Datu Unsay’s white polo shirt turned to crimson because of that.

“I do not know how many I killed that day. It was difficult to determine exactly who were killed by whose bullets.”

Jessie said he fired a total of 23 shots since only seven bullets remained in his magazine.

“After making sure that everyone from the third van was dead, Datu Unsay shouted at the people who had been herded into the other vans to step out,” he said.

“But none of them would. That only seemed to incense Datu Unsay even more. He gave the order to shoot everyone inside the vans.”

Jessie said the victims begged for their lives, and that it was a gory and dreadful sight in each of the five other vehicles.

“But I did not anymore participate in the shooting,” he said.

“Instead, as my companions gunned down the other members of the convoy, I walked away and sought refuge near the van we had earlier emptied of its occupants.

“There, I broke down and cried. I pitied the people we had just gunned down, utterly defenseless.”

Jessie said he was standing a few feet away from Ampatuan Jr. who spoke to someone on the radio: “Ama, papuntahin mo na dito ang backhoe (Father, send the backhoe here).”

Jessie said he believed it was Ampatuan Sr. on the radio as his voice was familiar.

Before Ampatuan Jr. left, he walked up to the broken and bloodied body of Genalyn Mangudadatu, knelt down and touched it in many places with his right palm as if to make sure the woman was dead, he added.

Jessie said Ampatuan Jr. repeatedly ran his right palm - bloodied from touching the woman’s body - over his already bloodied shirt.

Then he stood up, paced back and forth before the lifeless bodies of the victims, and laughed out loud, as if mocking them, he added.

Jessie said they stayed at the murder scene until the backhoe had dug a huge and deep hole.

Datu Kanor left when he spotted a helicopter coming, he added.

Jessie said while in detention Ampatuan Jr. has still been able to contact his followers in Maguindanao.

Ampatuan Jr. would send word to Maguindanao that they stay where they are and be patient because he will “prevail over his enemies,” he added.

Jessie said Ampatuan Jr. has been bragging that the Mangudadatus would not be able to defeat him because the Ampatuans have the money and the connections.

“He would warn us that he will eventually catch up with anyone who turns against him,” he said.

“At first, that he could still call us up and send text messages to us even while in detention deeply impressed me.

“Somehow it proved to me that Datu Unsay is indeed an untouchable because even while in detention he has a cell phone and is still able to order his men.

“But later on, it scared me; I realized that no one - not even I who knows a lot about the massacre and who am one of the Ampatuans’ trusted henchmen - is safe from Datu Unsay.” - Cecille Suerte Felipe

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