Backhoe operator wants to turn state witness in massacre trial

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 28 2012 03:20 PM | Updated as of Nov 29 2012 05:48 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The operator of the backhoe allegedly used in digging the graves of the Maguindanao massacre victims is applying with the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Witness Protection Program and intends to witness for the state.

In an interview with reporters on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said Bong Andal, recently nabbed by authorities in North Cotabato, already executed a sworn statement with the WPP.

The WPP will evaluate Andal's application.

"Malaking tulong yun, that means he is an eyewitness," De Lima said.

Fifty-eight people were brutally murdered in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23, 2009. The victims were mostly journalists and female members of the Mangudadatu political clan.

The Mangudadatus were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy (COC) of then gubernatorial candidate and now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu.

One hundred ninety-six people have been charged for the killing, including key members of the rival Ampatuan clan, headed by its patriarch, Andal, Sr.

The massacre has been described as the single deadliest event for journalists since the '90s.