MANILA - Police recovered stockpiles of ammunition from the house of Datu Unsay town Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. during a search of the Ampatuan compound in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao on Friday morning.
The raid was conducted a day after the discovery of a large arms cache from a vacant lot, at least 500 meters away from the mansion of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan Jr.
ABS-CBN News correspondent Jorge Cariño reported over radio dzMM that police search teams have also moved to another house owned by another member of the Ampatuan family.
Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa said announced during a press conference in Camp Crame that he received a report from the field that a 60mm mortar was recovered during the raid.
Verzosa said the policemen, aided by two battalions of heavily-armed soldiers, were armed with four search warrants issued by Judge Francis Palmones of the Kidapawan City Regional Trial Court.
He said the subjects of the search warrants were the houses of Ampatuan Jr., Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., and a certain Akmad Ampatuan.
He said he has yet to confirm where the 60mm mortar was actually found.
Cariño reported that the search warrants alleged that police believe several high-powered firearms are stored inside the compound.
Digging resumes at vacant lot
Lt. Col. Cresente Ferrer, commander of the Philippine Army's 601st Infantry Brigade, meanwhile, told ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG) that soldiers and policemen on Friday morning resumed digging at a basketball court-sized vacant lot in Barrio 3, Shariff Aguak, near the mansion of the ARMM governor.
Ferrer said they had to halt digging on Thursday night because soldiers and policemen were already exhausted.
He said they have already unearthed 22 long high-powered firearms, 11 short firearms, and 260 small boxes of assorted ammunition.
He said the weapons so far unearthed from the vacant lot could be worth "millions of pesos."
The military official said authorities discovered the "armory" with the help of a Shariff Aguak resident, who told authorities that the arms cache were buried last November 25, two days after the massacre of 57 people in Ampatuan town.
Ferrer said they expect more firearms to be recovered from the vacant lot. He added that the digging may last until Saturday.
Among the war materials recovered from the vacant lot were:
* two 81mm mortars;
* three 60mm mortars;
* two 90mm and one 57mm recoilless rifles commonly known as bazookas;
* 4 M60 machine guns;
* caliber .50 Barrett sniper rifle;
* 200 other high-powered guns;
* 1 Ultimax light machine gun;
* 1 Bushmaster 5.56mm carbine;
* 2 Browning Automatic rifles (BARs);
* 1 FAL automatic rifle;
* 1 AK-47;
* 1 Heckler & Koch HK 11 light support machine gun;
* one 5.56mm M4 carbine;
* 9mm and caliber .45 pistols.
Gun replacement parts were also found from the vacant lot.
Ampatuan Jr. has been charged with 25 counts of murder for allegedly leading the massacre. He remains detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila.
Several other members of the powerful Ampatuan clan are being investigated for their possible involvement in the massacre.
Among the massacre victims were the wife and two sisters of Buluan town Vice-Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, a candidate for the gubernatorial race in Maguindanao province.
Mangudadatu’s wife was leading a convoy bound for Shariff Aguak, where they were supposed to file a certificate of candidacy for governor on behalf of her husband.
The convoy included women and journalists. The other victims in the massacre were just passers by.
Police suspect the massacre could have been election-related due to reports that Ampatuan Jr. was also planning to run for governor.
From gov't arsenal
ABS-CBN News footage showed that ammunition boxes found at the vacant lot were marked "Government arsenal DND" and "Philippine National Police Camp Crame, Quezon City, Philippines."
Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, military spokesman, said Armed Forces chief Victor Ibrado has ordered an investigation to determine how the military's ammunition found their way into the vacant lot.
Ferrer, meanwhile, said the ammunition boxes found have markings of Armscor, meaning it came from the Government Arsenal in Bataan. He said some of the boxes even indicate the date of manufacture, June 2009.
Armscor supplies ammunition to the military, police, and also civilians, but only upon authorization of the government.
He said military and police uniforms were also found at the excavation site.
Ferrer, however, declined to connect the Ampatuans to the buried arms cache.
He said it would be up to the police to file a case based on the evidence found by investigators.
He said he could not confirm if the firearms were used in the Ampatuan massacre.
“I don’t know. We have the mortars and I don’t believe the mortars were used. May mga bala rin dito, different calibers, puwedeng nagamit noon o ibinaon para sa ganoon magamit pa ng mga goons ng mga private armies,” said Ferrer.
However, he said everyone knows who has the capacity and influence to buy such a large amount of firearms and ammunition.
“We will find out. Wala pa kaming personality. Pero obvious naman eh,” said Ferrer.
Ferrer also expressed his thanks to the civilian who tipped them off. He said the informant is helping achieve peace in Maguindanao. -- Reports from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News, Lerio Bompat, ABS-CBN Cotabato and ANC