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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?