MANILA - Nine members of the powerful Ampatuan clan are considered suspects in the brutal murders of 57 people in Maguindanao province last Monday, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said Friday.
Devanadera said that aside from Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the other suspects on the justice department's surveillance list are Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, Nords Ampatuan, Maguindanao Acting Vice-Gov. Akmad Ampatuan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Saudi Ampatuan Jr., Bahnarian Ampatuan, Sajid Islam Ampatuan, and Akmad Tato Ampatuan Sr.
"They are under investigation and under surveillance," Devanadera said of the eight suspected Ampatuans not in custody. She said immigration authorities had been alerted to prevent them from fleeing the country.
The justice chief said the 9 had varying degrees of participation either before, during or after the canage, based on witness accounts. She said her strongest evidence is the testimony of Buluan Vice-Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu who spoke to his wife before the massacre.
Mangudadatu earlier said his wife told him that it was Andal Jr. who stopped their convoy in Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao last Monday. The wife also said she was slapped by Andal Jr.
Her body and the bodies of 56 other people, including women and journalists, were found in shallow graves on a hilly area in Ampatuan town hours later. The justice chief said most of the women were shot in the genitals and may have been raped before they were killed.
Devanadera said the DOJ has witness accounts that Andal Jr. was at the crime scene and not in the city hall as he claimed during the time of the massacre. She said the DOJ has more than 20 affidavit against the suspects.
Devanadera said the Datu Unsay mayor will face more murder charges, which will be filed on Tuesday. She said her department was unable to file the case on Friday because of a Muslim holiday while Monday is a public holiday.
She said criminal charges will be filed against other suspects in the coming days.
The justice chief said her department is still studying a proposal to file terrorism charges against the suspects instead of multiple murder charges.
Devanadera called on other witnesses to come forward and testify against the perpetrators.