A witness and alleged triggerman in the Maguindanao massacre was shot dead this week. Suwaib Upham, who claimed he had taken part in the November 23 killing of 57 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, was killed by assassins, according to Atty. Harry Roque, counsel of the families of media workers killed in the massacre.
Upham had been talking to prosecutors in Manila since February, but went back to Maguindanao after the Department of Justice did not act quickly on his request for protection, Al Jazeera.net reported. “He went back to Maguindanao when it became apparent the witness protection program would take a while to take him in,” Roque said.
Roque said in another report, “He (Upham) could have been the strongest witness. It would have been perfect especially now that faith and confidence in the Department of Justice (DOJ) is being restored with the entry of Leila de Lima as justice secretary. However, it was too late for this particular witness,” he told abs-cbnNEWS.com.
An Inquirer.net report posted that Upham “knew he was a dead man walking the moment he fled the hinterlands of Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao.”
Upham reportedly said in an interview with the media last March 9, “Datu Unsay Andal Ampatuan Jr. will stop at nothing to kill those who knew about the massacre, including myself.”
US-based Human Rights Watch said the killing raised doubts about the government’s resolve in seeing justice done in the case. “Massacre witnesses are dying while the government sits on its hands,” Elaine Pearson, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement. “This sends the worst possible message to other witnesses thinking of coming forward,” she added.
Upham’s death took place just as a new key witness surfaced to give testimony and prove the involvement of some members of the influential Ampatuan family in the massacre that killed 37 journalists and supporters and relatives of the Ampatuans’ political opponent, incoming Maguindanao governor Ismael “Toto” Mangudadatu.
ABS-CBN reported that Lakmodin “Lak” Saliao, a former assistant of Ampatuan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., agreed to reveal his identity to the public to serve as a warning that in case he gets killed or anything untoward happens to him, the people will know that the Ampatuans are the mastermind. He said that the Ampatuans are determined in killing all the witnesses of the massacre.
While earlier witnesses pointed to Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan as masterminds of the massacre, Saliao said it was Andal Ampatuan, Jr. who led the planning and execution of the massacre.
A DOJ official said they will cross-examine Saliao. State prosecutor Richard Fadullon said he has ordered the panel prosecuting the Maguindanao massacre case to validate Saliao’s testimony.
GMANews.tv reported that at least 12 witnesses in the massacre are now under the protection of the justice department and in the custody of the police. Interior and local government officials assured the safety of the witnesses and their families.
More possible Cabinet appointees revealed
Days before the inauguration of president-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, more possible appointees in his Cabinet are revealed.
Commission on Human Rights chair Leila de Lima confirmed that she will take the post as Justice secretary. De La Salle president Bro. Armin Luistro is said to be considered to head the education department. The search committee is said to be choosing between former labor chief Bienvenido Laguesma and Jose Anselmo Cadiz, former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, to lead the Department of Labor and Employment.
Earlier reports said that Meralco president Jose “Ping” de Jesus will either be secretary of public works or of transportation and communications; Corazon “Dinky” Soliman and Teresita Deles will be back to their posts as social welfare secretary and peace process adviser; Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa will be executive secretary; and Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, will be the Palace spokesman.
Liberal Party’s Butch Abad, who previously declared he is open to join the Cabinet, said only Aquino can confirm and officially announce the appointees.
Meanwhile, analyst Mon Casiple said in an Inquirer.net report said that Aquino would still be exercising his own discretion in the selection of members of his Cabinet. “It will depend really on who is Noynoy Aquino, not his group, not his family,” he said.
The search committee tasked to screen and recommend possible appointees to the Cabinet includes Aquino’s sisters Ballsy Aquino-Cruz and Pinky Aquino-Abellada, former senior government officials Karina David and Mely Nicolas, Makati Business Club president Alberto Lim, and Aquino’s chief of staff Julia Abad.
5,000 cops to secure Noynoy’s inauguration
[[Philippine National Police]] (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa said 5,000 policemen will be deployed to secure the Quirino Grandstand in Manila, the venue of president-elect Aquino’s inauguration on June 30.
Police forces from Central and Southern Luzon will also beef up the security forces. “The airspace over Quirino Grandstand will be declared a ‘no-fly zone’ on inauguration day, while areas surrounding the venue will implement traffic re-routing scheme
to ensure order in the area,” Yahoo News reported.
Police forces will also be deployed at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City where Aquino is set to hold a victory party after the inauguration ceremonies.
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