Three days before the infamous massacre in Maguindanao in November 2009, the brother of clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. allegedly ordered their private army to carry out the killing, a farmer from the province testified on Wednesday.
The second witness to take the stand for the prosecution, Noradin Mauya told the court that he was around five meters away from Datu Kanor Ampatuan when the latter issued the order to to attack the convoy of then gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu when he files his certificate of candidacy.
“He ordered his men to shoot Mangudadatu when he and his convoy passed by the highway," testified Mauya, a farmer from Sitio Malatin in Salman village in Maguindanao.
His testimony bolstered the prosecution's argument that the attack was premeditated. A total of 57 people were killed in the massacre including Mangudadatu's wife, sisters, two lawyers, more than 30 journalists, aides, and motorists who were mistakenly identified as part of the convoy.
Mauya told the court that he saw local policemen and members of the powerful clan’s private armed group gathering near his house along the highway on November 20, three days before the carnage. Later, he saw Datu Kanor arrive in the area on board a red pick-up van.
The witness described Datu Kanor as a “siga" (toughie) and said crowds usually gave way whenever he passes by.
Mauya said Datu Kanor’s militiamen carried different types of heavy firearms including M14 and M16 rifles, and M203 grenade launchers.
Three police mobile patrol cars were parked in front of a Madrasah (a Muslim school) less than a hundred meters from his home, Mauya said.
To demonstrate the distance of his residence from the place where the armed men gathered, Mauya made a sketch on an acetate paper that was projected inside the court room.
Lawyer Sigfrid Fortun, counsel for prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr., initially objected to the projection of the sketch. Fortun said the defense was not informed beforehand about it, but Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes allowed the sketch to be shown in court.
Villagers shooed away
Mauya claimed that Datu Kanor asked Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay, then deputy provincial director, to set up a checkpoint in the area to block the Mangudadatus convoy.
In his testimony, Mauya said Datu Kanor shooed villagers away from their homes so they could “avoid getting in the way of the [looming] danger."
Asked to comment on the proceedings so far, Fortun questioned the motive of Lakmodin Saliao, the prosecution's first witness. Fortun observed that Saliao, a longtime helper of the Ampatuan patriarch, decided to speak up only after Mangudadatu won the gubernatorial race last May. -- VVP/YA, GMANews.TV