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Philippine Top Cop Accused of Covering Up Maguindanao Massacre

Inquirer.net, News Report, Marlon Ramos, Philippine Daily Inquirer Posted: Feb 13, 2010

MANILA, Philippines A senior police commander of Maguindanao tried to cover up the abduction and brutal slay of 57 people in the province last November 23, a top military official told the court Friday.

Taking the witness stand at the hearing of the rebellion case against the Ampatuans, Lieutenant General Raymundo Ferrer said Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay denied seeing the convoy of vehicles carrying the victims moments before they were held at gunpoint and executed by armed men allegedly led by Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Dicay, then the acting chief of the Maguindanao police office, had previously admitted in a sworn affidavit that he headed the setting up of a checkpoint near the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town.

Ferrer, the commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said Dicays attempt to hide the crime proved that there was a breakdown of loyalty of state forces in Maguindanao which later led to a breakdown of law and order in the province.

Aside from policemen, he said members of paramilitary units under the command of the Ampatuans were also implicated in the carnage.

The policemen in the area are no longer obeying the chain of command There was a breakdown of loyalty (and later) a breakdown of law and order, he told the court.

The hearing, presided over by Judge Vivencio Baclig of Quezon City regional trial court Branch 77, was for the determination of probable cause of the rebellion case against the Ampatuan and to defer the transfer of detention of jailed clan members from Mindanao to Metro Manila.

In his testimony, Ferrer said a crisis management committee formed by Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales decided to bring in Philippine National Police personnel from nearby regions due to the involvement of some PNP officers in the massacre.

We have to employ policemen who are not under the influence of local government officials in Maguindanao and those who will follow the chain of command, he said during questioning by state prosecutor Lamberto Fabros.

Ferrers testimony was supposed to prove that the Ampatuans, known to be staunch allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, tried to lead an armed uprising to prevent authorities from arresting clan members tagged in the carnage.

It was also meant to establish that a looming rebellion prompted Mrs. Arroyo to declare martial law in Maguindanao.

His testimony, however, was intermittently blocked by objections from the lawyers of the Ampatuans and heated arguments between the state prosecutors and defense panel.

Lawyer Phillip Sigfrid Fortun said the questions that the state prosecutors posed to Ferrer, who was appointed by the President as martial law administrator in Maguindanao, were rather vague, irrelevant, leading and immaterial.

At one point, Fortun protested when Fabros asked the military general what were his day to day activities.
Irrelevant, your honor. Day to day activities? Like going to the toilet? Fortun asked.

We object to the use of language. General Ferrer is a distinguished military officer so we request for these proceedings to be dignified, senior state prosecutor Leo Dacera retorted.

But Fortun replied, Whats so undignified about toilet? Its just a place in any building. Why is the prosecutor awfully sensitive on the dignity and solemnity of this proceeding when he himself is chewing gum?

The defense lawyers also succeeded in blocking the prosecutions attempt to present Ferrer as an expert witness by detailing his background in the military service.

His (Ferrer) resum should be presented in the promotion committee (of the military) and not this court, said defense lawyer Felipe Egargo Jr., eliciting chuckles from the people inside the court.

Fortun likewise asked Baclig not to entertain Ferrers testimony which, he said, was just based on hearsay for his failure to present to the court a document supporting his claims.

Fabros then requested the judge to just reset the hearing to allow the general to bring the pertinent documents regarding the case.

After another round of verbal spat among the prosecution and defense lawyers, Baclig decided to reschedule the hearing on Feb. 16.

Fabros also declared that Ferrer would be the last prosecution witness for the hearing on the petition filed by the Ampatuans.

Meanwhile, 27 policemen indicted in the Maguindanao massacre were flown from Mindanao yesterday.

Supt. Joaquin Alva, the spokesman of the police unit investigating the case, said the PNP personnel were among the 63 policemen charged by the Department of Justice for their complicity in the countrys worst election-related violence.

They are now assigned with the HSS (Headquarters Support Service) here in Camp Crame. They will be put under restrictive custody pending the filing of administrative cases against them, Alva told reporters.

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