Arroyo's ally to be charged over massacre

Suspect accused of killing political rivals in Philippines hands himself over to police

Andal Ampatuan Jnr, the member of a powerful pro-government clan suspected of involvement in the massacre of 57 people in an election caravan in the southern Philippines earlier this week, will be charged with murder today, the Philippines' chief prosecutor said yesterday. Mr Ampatuan turned himself in amid mounting pressure on President Gloria Arroyo to crack down on lawlessness and warlords.

The dead from Monday's massacre included at least 18 journalists and the wife, family and dozens of supporters of a candidate for governor who wanted to challenge the rival Ampatuan clan, which has ruled Maguindanao province unopposed for years. Mr Ampatuan, a town mayor, allegedly stopped the convoy with dozens of police and pro-government militiamen.

Asked by reporters if he was involved in the killings, Mr Ampatuan, who tried to hide his face with a scarf, replied: "There is no truth to that. The reason I came out is to prove that I am not hiding and that I am not guilty."

His surrender followed days of discussions between his family and Jesus Dureza, a presidential adviser, apparently in an attempt to prevent hostilities breaking out between the clan's followers and government forces.

The area around the provincial capital was tense after troops disarmed nearly 400 pro-government militiamen loyal to the Ampatuans. Such militias are meant to act as an auxiliary force to the military and police in fighting rebels and criminals but often serve as politicians' private armies. The military deployed tanks and truckloads of troops throughout the province under a state of emergency to hunt down the attackers and prevent retaliatory violence from the victims' clan.

The Ampatuan clan helped President Arroyo and her allies win the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections by delivering crucial votes. But in an emergency meeting on Wednesday, Ms Arroyo's ruling party expelled Mr Ampatuan, his father and a brother.

Police and soldiers on Wednesday found 11 more bodies at the site of the attack, bringing the death toll to 57. Six of the bodies were discovered in a large pit, buried alongside three vehicles, and five were found in a nearby mass grave.

The vehicles – a sedan and two vans – were crushed by a large mechanical digger that ran over and buried them, investigator Jose Garcia said.

Police Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu said they did not expect to find any more bodies.

Ms Arroyo has come under intense pressure at home and abroad to seek justice for the victims of the massacre, with the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and media and human-rights watchdogs voicing their concern over the scale of the killings.

The candidate, Ismael Mangudadatu, had received death threats and sent his wife and relatives to submit his candidacy on Monday in the convoy that was ambushed. Mr Mangudadatu said that four people whom he refused to identify told him that Mr Ampatuan was seen with the gunmen.

Ms Arroyo promised justice for the victims. Few, however, think she will be able to restore the rule of law in the impoverished region that has been outside the central government's reach for generations. Six senior police officers, including the provincial police chief and his deputy, 20 members of Ampatuan township's police station and 347 militiamen were in custody.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exce...

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

Engineering Design Manager (Mechanical)

£35000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: ENGINEERING ...

SSIS Developer Required - Leading Media Company

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A world leading media organisation is cu...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz