New witness in Ampatuan massacre case says unfazed by threats

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2010 12:32 AM | Updated as of Jun 26 2010 08:32 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Unfazed by threats, the new witness in the massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province, Lakmodin Saliao, said Friday he is willing to risk his life to tell the truth.

Saliao blamed members of the Ampatuan clan for the November 23 killings of at least 57 people.

Saliao, or Laks, served Andal Ampatuan Sr. as a household help for over 20 years -- but he recently revealed details on the Ampatuans’ involvement in the Maguindanao massacre case.

However, ever since he came out on ABS-CBN News, he has received death threats against him and his family. This prompted him to bring his mother to a secure location.

He said he is more worried about the threats against his family than those against himself.

"Hindi po ako nagsisinungaling. Totoong totoo po ako. Kung meron lang patakaran siguro sa Pilipinas o sa mundo na pugutan ako ng ulo pagkatapos ko magsalita, gagawin ko. Isa lang ako, ang sayang iyong maraming tao," Saliao said.

Death of other witness not scaring Laks

Before Laks surfaced, the prosecution’s strongest witness against the Ampatuans in the Maguindanao massacre case was supposedly Suwaid Upham, who claimed he was one of the gunmen ordered to kill the 57 victims in the massacre.

But before he could give an official statement to the Department of Justice, he was killed in Parang town in Maguindanao last June 14.

"Bakit ba kailangan pang patayin ang isang tao. Hindi na sila nakuntento, pinatay na nga nila iyong 57 na inosente, continuous pa rin ang pagpatay ng mga tao," Maguindanao governor-elect Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu said.

Upham’s death, however, is not deterring Laks from telling what he knows.

He said he will testify. He said he is not scared he will be killed like Upham.

"Hindi nga po ako natatakot kung ano man mangyayari sa akin, lahat naman ng tao mamamatay talaga. Mas mabuti siguro kapag mamatay ako na may halaga," Saliao said.

Laks’s official statement has been written and is set to be submitted to the Justice Department.

"He should not stay or act as deaf, dumb and mute... nakasalalay sa kanya ang peace and order dito sa Maguindanao," Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu hopes the resolution of the case will move faster under the incoming Aquino administration.

Laks 'lying'

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the Ampatuans dismissed the accusations of the new witness in the massacre.

Philip Pantojan said it is not true that Saliao had access to family patriarch Andal Sr. because he was just a simple errand boy.

Pantojan added Saliao came out with the accusations to block the Ampatuans from filing a case against him for stealing.

Pantojan also denied that the Ampatuans get special treatment while in detention.

He said Ampatuan Sr. could only use a cellphone when a nurse lends him one. - With reports from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News