State witness in Maguindanao massacre fears for his life

John Unson - Philstar.com

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The state witness to the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre is worried he could be murdered by people that want him silent sooner than the judiciary can hand a verdict on the case.  

“I’ve told the court about what happened on that day. I was beside Andal Ampatuan Jr. when he was firing an automatic weapon at the victims. What else is needed for justice to triumph? I’m tired and I’m living on the edge now,” lamented massacre witness Sukarno Badal.

Badal was referring to Ampatuan Jr., tagged as one of the brains in the massacre.

“I’m tired now of waiting for the day the court will pass judgment. I’m worried people that want me dead for having turned witness will succeed in having me killed even before verdict on the case is passed,” Badal said, without elaborating.

Badal, former vice-mayor of Sultan sa Barongis town in the second district of Maguindanao, was one of the speakers in Monday’s commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre.

The event was held at the scene of the crime in Salman area in Barangay Masalay in Ampatuan municipality.

Badal was one of more than 200 suspects in the massacre, the country’s worst election-related violence ever, but volunteered to help prosecute the culprits as state witness.  

“My brother was shot 18 times by gunmen right after I surrendered and volunteered to testify against the perpetrators and masterminds of the massacre,” Badal said.

Badal said three of his trusted men also went missing and efforts to locate their whereabouts were all futile.

“They must have been killed and dumped somewhere to intimidate me. Never will I resent having turned witness to that massacre of innocent people,” Badal said.

He said his brother luckily survived the attempt on his life, but the incident forced him to hide somewhere else.

Badal complained of slow litigation of the massacre case in the sala of Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.

He also appealed to two key massacre suspects still at large, Banarin Ampatuan and a relative named Kanor.

“They better surrender now and appear in court to prove their innocence as they claim, to show they are both innocent if indeed they are,” Badal said.

He said there are powerful people that want him killed, just like what had been done to several witnesses to the massacre, who got neutralized one after another as the litigation of the case went by.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who also addressed relatives of the massacre victims during the commemoration of the incident, said he is optimistic of the conviction of the culprits before the term of President Benigno Aquino III ends on June 30, 2016.

Also present in the symbolic affair were key military and police officials from across Central Mindanao and peace activist Oblate Missionary Eliseo Mercado Jr.

“There were moments I had thought of retaliating because of the slow litigation process, but did not because I’m convinced of the impartiality of the court handling the massacre case and because I believe justice would soon be achieved,” Mangudadatu said.

Among the 58 people killed in the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre was the spouse of Mangudadatu, Genalyn, and 32 journalists.

The victims were on their way to the old provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak town to file on Mangudadatu’s behalf his certificate of candidacy (COC) for governor of Maguindanao.

Mangudadatu, then vice mayor of Buluan, was to contest the bid for the same post of Ampatuan Jr., mayor of Datu Unsay town in the second district of the province at that time.

Ampatuan Jr. is now detained, being prosecuted in connection with the massacre.

Accompanied by heavily armed relatives and policemen, Ampatuan Jr. allegedly flagged down the convoy carrying Mrs. Mangudadatu and her companions to prevent them from getting through the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Shariff Aguak to file Mangudadatu’s COC.

The vehicles carrying the victims were herded at gunpoint to a nearby hill, where they were killed one after another using assault rifles and K3 caliber 5.56 light machine guns.

Badal said he saw how the victims were felled one after another by Ampatuan and his men using automatic weapons.

“I don’t deny I was one of his men then,” he said.

One of the alleged massacre masterminds, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., died of liver cancer early this year while in detention.

Ampatuan Sr., patriarch of the Ampatuan clan, was known for his absolute intolerance for political opposition when he was at the helm of the Maguindanao provincial government.

One of his sons implicated in the atrocity, Sajid, managed to post bail and has even filed his COC for mayor of their hometown, Shariff Aguak.

“We are seeking justice the legal way, through the judiciary. We have never resorted to retaliation because we want proper dispensation of justice for the victims of the massacre,” Mangudadatu said.

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