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Maguindanao Massacre

Mangudadatu: Unas' testimony, admission to WPP unnecessary

October 5, 2011 4:13pm
As far as Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto" Mangudadatu is concerned, former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas is not a credible witness to the alleged cheating in the 2007 elections.

Interviewed at the sidelines of Wednesday’s hearing on the Maguindanao massacre case at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, Mangudadatu questioned Unas’ motive in surfacing and accusing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel of masterminding the supposed poll fraud.

"Kailangan pag-aralan muna ang mga testimony niya at alamin ang totoong motibo niya sa paglabas," Mangudadatu said.

Unas was an ally of the Ampatuans, the clan implicated in the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao and political rival of the Mangudadatus. Among those killed in the massacre were Mangudadatu’s wife and two sisters.

Mangudadatu claimed Unas’ appearance could be an “orchestrated" move to veer attention away from the Ampatuans. He also opposed Unas’ possible admission to the government’s Witness Protection Program.

"Ilang beses siyang pinangalanan ng mga witness na nandoon sa meeting bago nangyari ang massacre," Mangudadatu said, referring to witness testimonies linking Unas to the massacre.

Among the prosecution witnesses in the Maguindanao massacre trial who identified Unas were Mohamad Sangki, who, in January 2010, said he was told that Unas was with Andal Ampatuan Sr. at a “party convention" held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Nov. 20, 2009, or three days before the massacre.

In the said meeting, “high party officials," including Andal Sr.’s son, Zaldy, reportedly approved of the plan to ambush the Mangudadatu convoy.

In a separate testimony in December 2010, witness and village councilman Noh Akil said Unas was among the people who tried “to cover up the massacre" along with Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Solicitor General Cynthia Sayadi.

Strong ties

On Wednesday, Mangudadatu emphasized Unas’ alleged strong ties with the Ampatuan clan. He said Unas is the cousin of one of Andal Sr.’s wives, Laila Uy, making him the uncle of prime massacre suspects Andal Jr., Sajid, and Zaldy.

Proof of Unas’ loyalty to the Ampatuans, Mangudadatu said, was when he agreed to be imprisoned with Andal Sr. more than a decade ago just to serve as the clan patriarch’s interpreter while in jail. Mangudadatu said Andal Sr. was facing murder charges at the time.

Mangudadatu also claimed that during his term as Buluan mayor from 2003 to 2007, everyone knew Unas as someone “who has the right to order everybody around."

Mangudadatu said that since Andal Sr. is illiterate, Unas took care of a lot of things on the old man’s behalf.

The Maguindanao governor also cast doubts on the timing of Unas' emergence, saying it came on the heels of the respective poll fraud exposes of Zaldy Ampatuan, who was suspended as ARMM governor following the massacre, and former provincial poll supervisor Lintang Bedol.

"Una si Zaldy, tapos si Bedol. Dahil hindi nag-work at hindi kinagat ng gobyerno ang testimonies nila, lumabas naman ngayon si Unas," Mangudadatu said.

Rumors earlier swirled that Zaldy was volunteering his knowledge on alleged poll fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections in exchange for his admission to the WPP, a claim denied by the ARMM governor's camp.

The Department of Justice had rejected Zaldy's offer to become a state witness in connection with the alleged poll fraud in Maguindanao.

Mangudadatu said the government should not turn Unas into a state witness, adding that the government could prove poll fraud happened in the 2004 and 2007 elections even without Unas' statements.

"Hindi na kailangan si Norie Unas. Malakas na naman ang testimony ng ibang EOs (election officers) na magdidiin sa nasa taas," he said.

Mangudadatu said he was open to the idea of "studying and considering" Unas' statements, so long as he would not be turned into a state witness and admitted to the WPP. "Pasalitain lang natin ng pasalitain, pero wag ipasok sa WPP," he said.

Mangudadatu said he was curious as to who could have facilitated Unas' sudden appearance. Unas was presented to the public last Monday by the DOJ and the Commission on Elections.

"Close si Unas kay [Comelec chairman] Brillantes. Kahit si Chairman Brillantes, naging abugado iyan dati ng mga Ampatuan," he said. — KBK, GMA News
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