|Exclusive interview of Anthony Taberna with former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan inside his cell.
Says Andal Jr. is the mastermind behind 2009 killings
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Cutting his ties with his family, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan has pinned down his father Andal Sr. and brother Andal Jr. to the gruesome murders in 2009 that brought the country high in the impunity index.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News’ Anthony Taberna inside his jail cell, Zaldy said he is willing to turn state witness and is willing to wait until the court hears his testimony. He also asked Malacañang to give him and his family security, knowing the consequences of his actions.
“Willing po ako mag-testify, sabihin kahit sino man ang involved, magulang ko man o kapatid, at kahit sino man involved para sa ikakalutas ng problemang ito at pawang katotohanan lamang ang aking sasabihin. (I’m willing to testify and speak the truth, even if my testimony will involve my father and brother),” he said.
He has signed an affidavit attesting to his father's and brother’s roles in the murders.
Andal Jr., in particular, was the one who planned the murders from day one, he alleged. The Ampatuan patriarch, on the other hand, was present during the 2 meetings prior to the November 23 murders, he said.
“Dapat makulong dito ay 'yong mastermind, 'yong nag-plano (The mastermind should go to prison),” he said.
He said he got the information from a witness who was around during the planning.
‘They ruined my life’
He condemned his father and brother for ruining his life and that of his family’s. He said it has been more than 3 months since he last talked to them.
“Dahil sa pangyayari, na dahil sa mga insidenteng nangyari na apektado ako, ang aking tungkulin bilang governor, ang aking pamilya, at maraming taong nasangkot na hindi naman dapat nangyari, masama ang loob ko sa kanila (Because of what happened, I have been greatly affected, including my work, family and other innocent people. I don’t like what they did),” he said.
Zaldy said he came out to clean the name of several family members who have been unwittingly dragged into the mess for carrying the name of Ampatuan.
‘Arroyo dropped me’
He also reiterated he did not have anything to do with the murders. He said he has evidence and witnesses to prove that he was in Malacañang on the day of the murders.
He sounded off his frustrations, however, that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo herself had cut him off. Arroyo could become his witness, he said.
“Siguro naghuhugas kamay siya, o meron siyang iniiwasan, siguro ayaw niya madamay sa pangyayari (Maybe she does not want to get involved),” he said.
He asked Arroyo to finally speak up.
“Sana magsalita kayo [Arroyo]. 'Yong insidenteng naganap sa Maguindanao noong November 23, 2009, magkasama ho tayo at mismong pinunta niyo kami (I hope you tell the public where I was when the Maguindanao incident happened on November 23, 2009, we were together and you came to see us)," he said.
Families reject Zaldy's offer
As far as the families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre are concerned, they do not want Zaldy Ampatuan to become a state witness.
They would rather see him behind prison bars.
For Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, Ampatuan’s statement is just part of a scam. Mangudadatu’s wife died in the gruesome mass murder last November 2009.
“Strategy lang nila 'yan. Susunod niyang ilalabas 'yong iba pang miyembro ng kanilang pamilya hanggang maiwan na lang si Unsay (Andal Jr.),” he said.
“Marami na kaming testigo na makapagsasabi ng katotohanan, 'di na namin sya kailangan,” Mangudadatu added.
Some of the other parties also do not want him out of jail, with the full belief that he had a hand in the murders.
In his affidavit, the former aide of the Ampatuans, Lakmodin Saliao, said Zaldy was present during the last meeting before the November 23, 2009 incident. This was further supported by a testimony of former Vice Mayor Sukarno Badal.
“Kasangkot siya, hindi pwede,” said Takungan Balayman, whose 2 daughters died in the incident.
“Hindi kami papayag,” stressed Fairodz Demello, who lost her husband to the murder.
De Lima: We don't need Zaldy
In response to Zaldy's offer to turn state witness Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said his intention to turn state witness will only be rendered futile.
In an interview with "TV Patrol", de Lima said, “we are not thinking of making him state witness. There is no solid justification.”
De Lima said Zaldy will have to pass through the eye of a needle to get what he wants.
“That is a very sensitive issue. The laws have rigid requirements when it comes to turning an accused into a state witness,” he said.
Besides this, Zaldy will also have to contend with the private complainants. “I don’t think they will agree,” she said.
Accepting Zaldy as a state witness means derailing the whole prosecutorial strategy, de Lima added.
“We can’t give in to his demand…He will say he did not have any participation in the killings, but that is contrary to what our other witnesses said,” she said.
“We don’t need his testimony for now. As far as we are concerned, he is one of the principal accused. He is part of the conspiracy,” she said.
The prosecution team is also trying to prove the element of “conspiracy” in the killings.
GMA's justice chief agrees
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's justice secretary, now one of her legal advisers, Raul Gonzalez, also said it would not be possible for Zaldy Ampatuan to turn state witness if he is facing a conspiracy charge.
He argued that under the law of evidence, conspiracy must be proven independently of the crime itself.
Gonzalez said that if there was a decision to waylay and kill the Mangudadatus in a meeting or conclave before the incident and Zaldy was in it, then that does not save him.
He also added that it would be useless for the former President to testify for Zaldy Ampatuan if the charge is conspiracy.
Gonzalez said Arroyo can only give an alibi which would not save him from a conspiracy charge.
Arroyo was initially in the list of witnesses for the defense. She has since been dropped, but Gonzalez was listed in her place.
Gonzalez, however, said he did see Zaldy Ampatuan in Malacañan at the time of the massacre.
Gonzalez said there was a Cabinet meeting at that time but he couldn't say for sure if Ampatuan joined the meeting.
This is also why Gonzalez disputed Ampatuan's claim that Arroyo just doesn't want to get involved.
"Paano siya ilaglag ni Presidente if he's part of the conspiracy...when conspiracy is charged, bale wala ang alibi, whatever the President will say, wala na rin. Paano siya ilaglag kung may conspiracy? How can Gloria say he is not guilty if they can prove he is part of the conspiracy?" he said. -- with additional reports from Jorge Cariño, RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News; Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com