'Vital witness' in Ampatuan massacre survives attack in South Cotabato

A vital witness in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre survived an attack carried out by unidentified gunmen in Tantangan town in South Cotabato on Wednesday morning, June 3.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Wednesday that it will conduct an independent probe into the attack on Ampatuan massacre witness Mohamad Sangki, who was traveling in Tantangan town with a driver and a security escort from the DOJ's Witness Protection Program (WPP) when the incident happened.

According to private prosecutor Nena Santos, Sangki was not shot but suffered injuries due to the impact of the vehicle crashing into two cottages. He and his driver, who was critically injured, were in a hospital in Koronadal, she said.

Santos said Sangki's security escort was able to shoot back at the suspects.

"Very bold ang gustong pumatay kay Mohamad, [in] daylight and with DOJ WPP security pa (The person who wants to kill Mohamad is very bold, [the attack was done] in daylight and even with DOJ WPP security)," said Santos.

Sangki is a former municipal officer in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, and was among the 56 people acquitted in the conclusion of the 10-year massacre trial.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he would direct the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the incident.

"I will definitely ask the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate this. Sangki is a vital witness in the continuing trial of the Maguindanao Massacre case," said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

On November 23, 2009, 58 people, most of them journalists, were killed in a brazen attack on their convoy as they were on their way to cover the filing of the certificate of candidacy of then-Maguindanao governor aspirant Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu. It is the deadliest attack on journalists in the world, and the worst election-related violence in Philippine history.

In December 2019, the Quezon City court convicted 28 people including Datu Andal Jr, Zaldy Ampatuan, Anwar Amptuan Sr, and other clan members Anwar Sajid and Anwar Jr.

There is a second batch of complaints pending before the DOJ. The Quezon City court has also reissued warrants on 80 more people who have been on the lam since 2009.

"Sangki is a vital witness in the second wave of prosecution for the Maguindanao Massacre, and it is not far-fetched that his ambush today had something to do with the horrible case," said Guevarra.

Citing information from the mayor of Tantangan, Santos said the police were on hot pursuit on the gunmen. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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