Sep 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2010/01/10MANILA155.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10MANILA155
2010-01-26 08:51
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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DE RUEHML #0155/01 0260851
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 260851Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6389
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000155

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2020
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KJUS KCRM RP
SUBJECT: MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE: LEAD SUSPECT’S TRIAL UNDERWAY

REF: A. 09 MANILA 2548 (PRESIDENT ENDS MARTIAL LAW)
¶B. 09 MANILA 2503 (AMBASSADOR CAUTIONS TOP OFFICIALS)

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i. Leslie A. Bassett, reason: 1.4 (
b) and (d).

SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) The murder trial is underway for a powerful former
Mayor suspected of leading a gruesome November 23 massacre in
Maguindanao province that left 57 people dead. Two other
members of his prominent family remain detained on charges of
rebellion, although we understand one could be released soon.
The principal murder suspect, Andal Ampatuan, Jr., a member
of Maguindanao’s influential Ampatuan clan, pled not guilty
to charges in a trial that began January 5. In an early
setback common in criminal proceedings in the Philippines, a
prominent eyewitness recanted testimony that incriminated
Ampatuan. The authorities have replaced nearly all
provincial police officials in Maguindanao, and the media
named more police officials charged with murder in the
massacre. To aid investigations into the Ampatuan clan’s
vast private arsenal, Philippine police have requested U.S.
assistance in tracing the weapons discovered in an Ampatuan
cache. Civil society groups in Manila continue to mourn the
loss of the more than 30 journalists and media employees
killed in the massacre, including several who received
journalism training through a U.S.-funded program. End
Summary.

MURDER TRIAL UNDERWAY
———————

¶2. (SBU) The criminal trial is underway in Manila for former
Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., who is charged with
murder for leading a gruesome November 23 elections-related
massacre in Maguindanao province that killed 57 civilians.
Ampatuan, Jr. pled not guilty to 41 charges of murder in a
trial that began January 5, and is seeking bail. Prosecutors
have not yet filed charges in 16 remaining murder cases.

¶3. (SBU) In January 13 testimony connected to Ampatuan, Jr.’s
bail request (which remains pending as of January 25), Rasul
Sangki, the Vice Mayor of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao
province, told the court that he overheard Ampatuan, Jr.
informing his father (then-Governor of Maguindanao Andal
Ampatuan, Sr.) via radio that the victims had been gathered.
Sangki claimed Ampatuan, Sr., replied: “You know what to do.”
According to Sangki, he then witnessed the killings.

COUNTERCLAIMS
————-

¶4. (SBU) Around the time of Sangki’s testimony, armed men
burned down a portion of a village near a farm owned by
Sangki; a Maguindanao official claimed publicly that this act
was carried out by Ampatuan loyalists. The press also
reported that unidentified gunmen killed a cousin of Sangki
and, in a separate incident, shot at the home of another
relative of Sangki. Shortly thereafter, police official Anwar
Masukat, another prosecution witness, recanted an earlier
statement and claimed he had falsely incriminated Ampatuan,
Jr. under duress. Masukat claimed that, in fact, Sangki had
led the massacre. In an additional twist, Rasul Sangki’s
sister, who is married to a member of the Ampatuan clan,
publicly supported the allegation against her brother,
accusing also her father, Zacaria Sangki.

¶5. (SBU) On January 22, the Philippine National Police (PNP)
replaced all Maguindanao province police officials except the
provincial police chief in a move was intended to increase
public confidence in the continuing massacre investigation.
This development took place after reports that millions of
dollars in cash might have disappeared from an Ampatuan
residence that security officials had searched recently.
Seven police officials have also been charged with multiple
murders for the massacre, but it is unclear when their trial
may begin.

OTHERS FACE REBELLION CHARGES, NO TRIALS SET
——————————————–

¶7. (C) Clan patriarch and former Maguindanao Governor Andal
Ampatuan, Sr., and another son, former Governor of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Zaldy Ampatuan,
are detained in Mindanao on charges of rebellion, which stem

MANILA 00000155 002 OF 002

from their acquisition of a significant arsenal and efforts
to block the massacre investigation. Ampatuan, Sr., held at
a Davao hospital while undergoing medical treatment, opposes
his transfer to Manila for trial. Authorities have not
announced his trial date. A senior ARMM official told us on
January 21 that Zaldy Ampatuan is in a General Santos City
prison with three of his brothers and has a court appeal
pending. The basis for the appeal, the official explained,
is that the arrest warrant against him was served during the
temporary period of martial law (Ref B) in Maguindanao and is
therefore invalid. Our contact predicted to us on January 26
that Zaldy Ampatuan might face only minor charges and be
released from custody in the near future. Our contact
claimed Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno was concerned that
Zaldy Ampatuan’s long-term incarceration could cause the
security situation in Maguindanao to degrade further, as
Zaldy Ampatuan played a constructive role in coordinating the
acts of local militia groups aligned against the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front.

INVESTIGATORS SEEK U.S. HELP
—————————-

¶8. (C) The Philippine National Police recently requested
LEGATT assistance to check if weapons from an Ampatuan arms
cache may have originated from the U.S. LEGATT is working on
the request. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is
also supporting the murder and rebellion investigations, with
a leading role for the ARMM NBI chief, who received training
several years ago through the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Assistance
Program.

CIVIL SOCIETY MOURNS
——————–

¶9. (SBU) Civil society groups continue to mourn the loss of
32 journalists and media employees killed in the massacre.
The “November 23 Movement,” composed of journalist
associations and free speech groups, held a mass vigil in
Manila January 23 with victims’ families. Contacts told us
that several of the journalists killed in the massacre
participated in the State Department’s DRL-funded human
rights reporting project, implemented by the Institute for
War and Peace Reporting from 2007 to mid-2009 to educate
journalists on reporting techniques and ethics.

COMMENT
——-

¶10. (C) It is unclear if the high-profile trial of Andal
Ampatuan, Jr. will proceed on a reasonable timeline. Lawyers
for Ampatuan, Jr., are likely to employ typical defense
tactics to stall proceedings — ploys that can delay trials
for many years, given the Philippines’ creaky justice system.
Witness testimony in the Philippines is often unpredictable,
and the disposition of witnesses in this case may prove
especially erratic.
BASSETT

   

 

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