Andal Sr. camp denies clan ‘private army’ involved in Mamasapano clash

Student protesters hold a slogan denouncing the killing of 58 people, including at least 32 media workers, during a rally in suburban Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines on Sunday Nov. 21, 2010. Almost a year has past since Andal Ampatuan Jr., the scion of a powerful clan, was said to have led his men in killing 58 people, including 32 media workers, in southern Maguindanao province.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Student protesters hold a slogan denouncing the killing of 58 people, including at least 32 media workers, during a rally in suburban Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines on Sunday Nov. 21, 2010. Almost a year has past since Andal Ampatuan Jr., the scion of a powerful clan, was said to have led his men in killing 58 people, including 32 media workers, in southern Maguindanao province.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Maguindanao massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Sr. has denied that his clan’s supposed private armed group had a hand in the deadly January 25 Mamasapano clash that killed over 60 people, including 44 elite police commandos.

The clan patriarch, through his lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, said reports dragging his family’s name in the Mamasapano incident only meant to “demonize” their clan, some members of which including him are facing murder charges for the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

“My client informs me that this is untrue … the Ampatuans will never be involved, directly or indirectly, in any activity that will result in the killing of government forces,” said Topacio on Monday.

Topacio claimed the powerful clan has no capability to form and maintain a private armed group, especially after being implicated in the 2009 massacre.

“The Ampatuans have been out of power for approximately five years, and their resources practically exhausted; therefore they do not have the influence and wherewithal to form and maintain private armed groups,” said Topacio.

Apart from Andal Sr., his three sons and several relatives, around 100 local policemen and alleged members of the clan’s private armed group are currently under detention and facing trial before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.

“Our client categorically tells us that the remnants of their followers in Maguindanao will never join ranks with the (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), and thus, their participation in the firefight in Mamasapano, allegedly shoulder-to-shoulder with the MILF, is preposterous,” said Topacio.

The lawyer said attempts to link the Ampatuans to the Mamasapano clash could merely be a “part of the continuing attempt to obfuscate and confound the issue by floating the names of other parties.”

“Our client decries this latest attempt to demonize the Ampatuan name and their clan, and urges the public to be more discriminating in their assessment of statements coming from different quarters which may have their own agenda to promote,” said Topacio.

Topacio said like everyone else, his client “join(s) the call for justice and truth in the killing of the 44 SAF troopers in Mamapasano.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines over the weekend confirmed the involvement of the private armed group of Andal Ampatuan Sr. in the Mamasapano firefight.

“Kasama ‘yung private armed group ni former governor Ampatuan sa Mamasapano [clash],” military spokesman Brig Gen. Joselito Kakilala told GMA News Online in a phone interview on Saturday.

Kakilala explained that most of the members of the private armed group joined the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters after being implicated in the Maguindanao massacre in 2009.

“Most of them joined Ali Tambako’s group,” Kakilala said, referring to the former vice chairman of the BIFF who was arrested in General Santos City last week.

A supposed witness was earlier quoted in a GMA News report as refering to Ampatuan’s private armed men as the “massacre” group that helped MILF and BIFF men during the encounter.

A total of 58 people were killed in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, inclyding 32 journalists. (MNS)

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