Mangudadatu: I won't give up Ampatuan trial

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 22 2012 10:01 PM | Updated as of Jun 23 2012 10:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu on Friday said he is ready to testify at the Ampatuan massacre case trial next week.

On June 27, the prosecution is expected to continue presenting evidence to oppose the bail petition of about 50 suspects, including former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son Andal Jr.

“I’m ready. Totoo naman ‘yung sasabihin natin doon,” Mangudadatu told ANC’s “Prime Time” on Friday.

Mangudadatu, whose wife and 2 sisters were killed in the 2009 massacre, said he will not rest until a guilty verdict is handed down.

"Ako’y hindi sumu-surrender. Alam ng Diyos at alam ng buong kapuluhan na may batas tayo na inaantay po natin. Hangga’t buhay pa ako, nandiyan ako at hindi ko iiwan ito," he said.

Mangudadatu said although the trial is moving slowly, he believes that justice will be served eventually.

He said that in his many talks with the President, he was always assured that the government will do what it can to punish the assailants.

Impunity

The politically-motivated slaying of at least 57 people, mostly journalists, raised the issue of impunity not only in Mindanao but in the whole country.

For Mangudadatu, the fight for justice for the victims is also a battle cry to end impunity in the Philippines.

“Dapat magkaisa ang Pilipino para matigil na itong impunada. Dapat ay labanan natin,” he said.

He said government officials must be vigilant in protecting journalists, especially those who have exposed anomalies within the government.

“Dapat magkaroon ng protection para sa mga media natin lalo na ‘yung mga taong may adbokasya na labanan ang mga katiwalian,” he said.

Witness protection

The governor also said he is worried about the safety of witnesses in the trial.

Just last May, a third witness in the trial was found dead by authorities.

Esmail Amil Enog, a former driver of the Ampatuan family, had earlier testified that he drove dozens of armed men who participated in the massacre.

He went missing for 2 months before his body was found.

However, Mangudadatu refused to place the blame on the National Bureau of Investigation’s Witness Protection Program.

“’Yung Witness Protection Program ‘di naman sila nagkulang. Nakikita ko talagang protektado ‘yung mga witness natin,” he said.

He urged witnesses to the massacre to be strong and to continue to pray that justice will be delivered swiftly.

“Sana lalo nila lakasan ang kanilang loob at manalangin sila lagi at isama ang ating hukom na magbukas sila ng puso para tanggapin ang kanilang statement at ipresenta sila, nang sa ganoon ay magkaroon na din ng verdict,” he said.

“Huwag tayong manghina sa kakahanap ng hustisya dahil alam natin na may batas sa pilipinas. Alam natin na sa bagong administrasyon ay hindi pinipigilan ang paghahanap ng karapatan sa bawat isa,” he added.

Earlier this week, Mangudadatu did not take the witness stand, prompting the Ampatuan camp to ask the court to consider as waived the prosecution's right to present additional witnesses in the multiple murder case.

The prosecutors, however, accused the defense of blocking their witnesses through cases filed before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.