Report of the Humanitarian and Fact-Finding Mission to Maguindanao

Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

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Report of the Humanitarian and Fact-Finding Mission to Maguindanao

of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists

and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

Compiled and produced by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, MindaNews, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines


The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), a network of independent media organizations in the Philippines in partnership with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), a mass organization of journalists across the country, dispatched a humanitarian and Fact-Finding Team to Maguindanao from November 25 to 30, 2009 for two objectives:

1. Extend immediate humanitarian assistance to the reporters and media workers killed in the November 23, 2009 massacre; and
2. Conduct an independent and fair documentation of what had happened.

The Team arrived in General Santos City two days after the massacre, and traveled around to the massacre site in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak, and the cities of Koronadal and Tacurong to interview witnesses, family members of the victims, investigators, and other government officials.

Established in 2001, the FFFJ provides financial assistance to the families of slain journalists, as well as legal support in the prosecution of their cases. Its founding members are the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), and the US-based newspaper Philippine News.

The biggest mass organization of journalists with 62 chapters across the Philippines, the NUJP is a full member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which promotes international action to defend press freedom and social justice through strong, free and independent trade unions of journalists.

The Fact-Finding Mission was conducted in partnership with the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM).

The Fact-Finding Team was composed of the following journalists and lawyers:

1. Rowena “Weng” C. Paraan, Research Director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and board member of the
2. National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
3. Jaime “Nonoy” Espina, vice president of the NUJP
4. Ed Lingao, Multimedia Director of the PCIJ
5. Carol Arguillas, editor of MindaNews
6. Froilan Gallardo, senior writer of MindaNews
7. Atty. Prima Quinsayas, legal counsel of the FFFJ
8. Melanie Pinlac, secretariat coordinator of the FFFJ and staff of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
9. Atty. Manuel Quibod, president of the Free Legal Assistance Group-Davao chapter and dean of the Ateneo de Davao School of Law
10. Atty. Maan Lagare Academia, member of UPLM

Three other journalists who are members of the NUJP local chapters coordinated meetings with the family members and assisted the Fact-FindingTeam.

The Team also assisted and worked with the Philippines’ foremost forensics expert, Dr. Raquel Fortun (sister-in-law of Ampatuan lawyer Sigfried Fortun), who has been designated as a consultant on the Maguindanao case by the Commission on Human Rights, in cooperation with the FFFJ.


The Fact-Finding Team interviewed local journalists and NUJP members, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and family members of the victims – and visited the funeral parlors and wakes – to come up with a list of the reporters and media workers who were killed in the massacre.

The Fact-Finding Team verified that at least 30 media workers were killed, while another one remains missing, or more than half of the 57 confirmed fatalities.

As of Dec. 1, the list of 30 media fatalities of the massacre follows:

1. Adolfo, Benjie, Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City

2. Araneta, Henry, dzRH, General Santos City

3. Arriola, Mc Delbert “Mac-Mac,” UNTV, General Santos City

4. Bataluna, Rubello, Gold Star Daily, Koronadal City

5. Betia, Arturo, Periodico Ini, General Santos City

6. Cabillo, Romeo Jimmy, Midland Review, Tacurong City

7. Cablitas, Marites, News Focus / dxDX, General Santos City

8. Cachuela, Hannibal, Punto News, Koronadal City

9. Caniban, John, Periodico Ini, General Santos City

10. Dalmacio, Lea, Socsargen News, General Santos City

11. Decina, Noel, Periodico Ini, General Santos City

12. Dela Cruz, Gina, Saksi News, General Santos City

13. Duhay, Jhoy, Gold Star Daily, Tacurong City

14. Evardo, Jolito, UNTV General Santos City

15. Gatchalian, Santos, DXGO, Davao City

16. Legarte, Bienvenido, Jr., Prontiera News, Koronadal City

17. Lupogan, Lindo, Mindanao Daily Gazette, Davao City

18. Maravilla, Ernesto “Bart,” Bombo Radyo, Koronadal City

19. Merisco, Rey, Periodico Ini, Koronadal City

20. Montaño, Marife “Neneng,” Saksi News, General Santos City

21. Morales, Rosell, News Focus, General Santos City

22. Nuñez, Victor, UNTV, General Santos City

23. Perante, Ronnie, Gold Star Daily correspondent, Koronadal City

24. Parcon, Joel, Prontiera News, Koronadal City

25. Razon, Fernando “Ranny,” Periodico Ini, General Santos City

26. Reblando, Alejandro “Bong,” Manila Bulletin, General Santos City

27. Salaysay, Napoleon, Mindanao Gazette, Cotabato City

28. Subang, Francisco “Ian”, Socsargen Today, General Santos City

29. Teodoro, Andres “Andy,” Central Mindanao Inquirer, Tacurong City

30. Tiamson, Daniel, UNTV, General Santos City


The Fact-Finding Team noted, however, that media worker Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay of the Midland Review, Tacurong City, remains missing. As well, the bodies of three more persons marked as “media” by the retrieval team had been recovered by the authorities but not yet identified by their relatives.


Day 1 (November 25, 2009, Wednesday)

Team members met in GenSan airport (Carol and Froilan drove from Davao, Weng and Nonoy flew from Manila) shortly before 9 am.

Proceeded to a scheduled meeting with the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) head Secretary Jesus Dureza at the brigade HQ (601st Philippine Army) in Tacurong. There were several journalists from local and national media already in the camp when the Team arrived and the originally private meeting became a Q and A session between Sec. Dureza and the other members of media. Dureza said nothing new actually except that something would happen soon, apparently referring to the “surrender” of Ampatuan the following day. But we did receive assurance from him that the Team would be updated on developments in the investigation. He invited us to attend a meeting with families at 2 pm in Koronadal and a press briefing afterward. He also arranged for someone to meet the Team at the massacre site.

The Team proceeded to the massacre site (Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town). Just before the Team arrived, the red Vios and UNTV vehicles had already been dug up. Six bodies were found while the Team was there, including the body of dzRH correspondent Henry Araneta, from the pit where the vehicles were also buried.

Local residents interviewed confirmed seeing a huge number of armed men on the day of the massacre.

The Team interviewed ground commander, Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu. The residents’ account of the timeline jibed with Khu’s timeline. Like Khu, the residents said they saw the convoy enter the area around 10 am.

It was past 4 pm when the Team reached Koronadal and the meeting with families was over. The Team secured a copy from the Region 12 office of DSWD of the list of victims and representatives of their families. The list was not final, the Team was told. In fact, a lot of entries were inserted and hand-written. The Team compared it with the initial list of media victims that it had (based on Carol’s list, reports by NUJP locals and published reports). The Team came up with an initial list of 27 media personnel. DSWD people said relatives would be coming the following, most likely in the afternoon, to get death certificates. The Team requested DSWD to inform any arriving relatives of the victims that FFFJ and NUJP wished to speak with them.

The Team proceeded to the candle-lighting program at Koronadal Plaza. Nonoy spoke for NUJP. More than 200 people composed of media members, students, and capitol employees listened to the speeches.

Day 2 (November 26, 2009, Thursday)

The Team left early for Shariff Aguak for the “turnover” of Datu Unsay Andal Ampatuan Jr. to Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza. The 10 am scheduled “turnover” was delayed and finally pushed through at 11:42 am.

Ed tried to go to the massacre site for video documentation but was told by soldiers in the area that the recovery efforts had already been ended.

The Team proceeded to the DSWD office for follow-up work with the families. But only relatives of two victims were there and they were not immediate family members. The Team could therefore not release the financial assistance to them. DSWD, though, gave an updated list of victims and families, and this time with 59 names that included 30 members of media. Some names, however, were either nicknames or were incomplete names, and had no indication of the victim’s media affiliation. The Team checked each name one by one to come up with a more complete list, with additional details.

Weng met with local journalists to help facilitate the meeting with the victims’ families. Tasks on who would contact who were identified.

Ed went to the autopsy site and a funeral parlor, and then met with Freddie Solinap, publisher of Periodico Ini. The weekly paper had lost its full complement of field/reportorial personnel during the massacre, since four of the paper’s staff of six had come along for the coverage. The surviving two staff members of the paper are admin/office personnel.

The Team returned to General Santos City

The Team secured data on briefing presentations for Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales

Day 3 (November 27, 2009, Friday)

The Team secured copies of vital documents, including reports of the investigators, and the affidavits of Datu Esmael “Toto” Gaguil Mangudadatu, Datu Ibrahim “Jong” Mangudadatu, Datu Freddie “Ogie”G. Mangudadatu and Datu Zajid “Dodong” G. Mangudadatu, Judge Mamasalanan, Basit T. Laguia, Sandaman Rajah Ali, the initial report of the National Bureau of Investigation, and minutes of the inquest proceedings on November 26, 2009. Minutes of Inquest Proceedings, 26 Nov ; Joint-Affidavit of Arrest of SA Manuel Sayre; SA Madrino de Jesus, Sgt. Eduardo Fr. Ramos, Jr.; SA Ariel Jonathan Contreras and SRA Czar Eric.

The Team’s lawyers met to discuss legal steps to be taken and arrange for media coverage of the filing of the case on Tuesday (Monday, Nov. 30, being a holiday) and to ensure that the documents are filed with the court.

The Team visited the victims’ families in General Santos City, and spoke with their relatives at the funeral homes.

The Team interviewed reporters who were supposed to have joined the trip to Maguindanao on November 23 but who decided against doing so at the last minute.

Forensics expert Dr. Raquel Fortun arrives in General Santos City and is given a general briefing by the Fact-Finding Team on their initial findings.

Day 4 (November 28, 2009, Saturday)

The Team proceeded to Koronadal to meet with 12 families of the slain media members held at the Public Information Office of the capitol building. Only 11 families arrived and were given financial assistance by the FFFJ.

The Team returned to General Santos City and at the Collado Funeral Parlor met with family members and friends of five media victims, in particular (Cablitas, Dela Cruz, Bataluna, Adolfo, Morales).

Atty. Quinsayas met for the second time with PD Leo Dacera.

Ed and Dr Fortun visited the massacre site and met with representatives of the Commission on Human Rights.

Ed and Dr Fortun went to see the vehicles of the victims that have been impounded at the police “evidence yard” in General Santos City.

Day 5 (November 29, 2009, Sunday)

The Team proceeded to Sto. Niño, South Cotabato to meet with the family of Henry Araneta.

The Team went to Tacurong City to meet with families of Bebot Momay and Andres Teodoro (Melay and Froilan).

Atty. Quinsayas met with the prosecution panel in GenSan.

Day 6 (November 30, 2009, Monday)

The Team met with family of Mc Delbert Arriola at UNTV GenSan office.

At the airport, the Team received a text message from Arriola’s father that the CIDG had called families of victims.

The Team learned that the families of two victims have decided to files cases. Post-mortem reports have been done for only five media workers:


1. Poor handling and contamination of the massacre site

Five days after the massacre, when the Fact-Finding Team visited on November 28, the scene of the crime remained heavily littered with rubbish, and possibly the personal effects and the remains of the victims. There was even what appeared to be a tuft of long hair on the ground that could have been a piece of scalp. The police scene of crime operatives (SOCO) had placed yellow police line tape only around the immediate perimeter of the massacre site, but not on the road leading to it. The site did not look like a protected scene at all. The Team even saw used SIM cards – from the suspects or from responding police and soldiers- on the ground.

The retrieval team from the military and police was clearly assigned to achieve only one task: get the bodies out. There was little or no consideration given to preserving the evidence. There was little or no consideration given to avoid the contamination of the crime scene.

2. Poor handling of the remains

The use of a backhoe (not the one allegedly used by the accused) compromised the site and the remains. In addition, the backhoe may have ended up adding to the physical trauma on the bodies. An indication of the carelessness shown in handling the bodies was the fluctuating body count that the authorities gave. For a while, the authorities could not agree on how many bodies there were.

In interviews, members of the retrieval team from the military and police admitted that they had to rush their work and pull out of the site before dark set in because the situation on the first four days was still tenuous, and they had wanted to avoid possible retaliation from the suspects. The retrieval team had chosen to use a backhoe, instead of shovels, to retrieve the bodies precisely to rush the effort.

3. The apparent preference for testimonial rather than physical evidence

The authorities have been gathering a lot of testimonies, but showed less emphasis to securing physical evidence. Three affidavits submitted by prosecutors against the Ampatuans were allegedly from the passengers of the last vehicle that got separated from the convoy. Their affidavits had too many phrases in common, such as “I and my companions went out of the car to urinate” and “We were threatened to see Datu Unsay approaching the first vehicle.”

Some affidavits submitted to the prosecutors stated that the diggings and pit where the bodies were buried had been prepared a week earlier, or days before the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre.

According to ground command C/Supt Khu, only one cell phone was recovered from the massacre site, and no other equipment or gadget that the media workers and the other fatalities might have carried with them.

4. CAFGU Detachment, “MNLF Camp” near the site

The victims’ convoy was stopped by the suspects just about 300 meters from a detachment of the CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units that are under the command of the military). During the initial military search, the CAFGUs claimed that no such convoy had passed by, even though the blockade occurred in a dip in the road clearly visible to the CAFGU detachment. The army cadre in charge of the detachment discreetly signaled to searchers that the convoy had turned into the side road. The CAFGUs are under interrogation.

While both are militia forces, CAFGUs and CVOs (civilian volunteer organization) have different command structures. CVOs, including barangay tanods, are under the command of local government officials.

Just 50 meters down the road leading to the massacre site there is an area marked as “MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) camp.” It was empty when the Fact-Finding Team arrived but the adjacent houses looked well kept.

5. Vehicle/s allegedly used by suspects still unaccounted for

Investigators said the suspects also used a Nissan Frontier pickup with police markings. One such police vehicle issued to the Maguindanao police is still unaccounted for. This jibes with claims by the Mangudadatus’ witnesses that police vehicles were involved in the blockade.

6. Fear grips residents near the site, and seems to prevent them from speaking out

There are many houses, even a mosque, located around the massacre site. Because the site is on a hilltop, anyone in those houses would have seen the massacre, assuming that they were there at the time. Whether or not they would be willing to talk about what they could have seen is another question.

7. Enormous weapons arsenal of the Ampatuans not fully confiscated

The Ampatuans had surrendered a lot of old firearms such as Garands and Carbines but are known to have large arsenals of modern weapons. The initial police investigation showed that the victims were shot by six Armalite rifles, an M-14 rifle, an AK-47, and a shotgun. The police reports made no mention of injuries caused by a Garand or a Carbine.

The police had seized two heavy armored cars owned by the Ampatuans that were armed with multiple 50-caliber machine guns. The vehicles look like World War 2-type half-tracks [except they have wheels] that have half-inch armor plates. These armored cars were painted in camouflage and stamped with the words Pulisya and Shariff Aguak or Maguindanao police, even though they are not official police vehicles. In fact they do not even have any attachment points for license plates. It is not clear if appropriate charges were filed against the Ampatuans for these armored cars. The police also say that the 50-caliber machine guns had tampered serial numbers.

8. Road leads to nowhere?

The road to the massacre site is a road for four-wheel vehicles. Yet the road leads to nowhere, and ends at the massacre site. Also, no one in the area clearly owns any vehicle. The pit where the bodies were buried might have been dug up days before the massacre occurred, according to the retrieval team members.

9. Imperative to disarm all clans, political families in the area

Apart from the Ampatuans, the Mangudadatus are widely held to be in command of their own private army. The two families were, until last year, close allies. One journalist quotes some residents as saying, “Walang pinagkaiba ang mga iyan.” Toto Mangudadatu filed his certificate of candidacy escorted by scores of armed escorts, according to television news reports of the event. In a visit to his family house in Buluan City, the Team saw civilians carrying high-powered firearms, some of them of unknown make and caliber, indicating that these could not possibly be government-issue firearms.

10. Missing or still undisclosed documents

More than a week after the massacre, and days after the Department of Justice had reportedly filed seven counts of murder charges against Andal Ampatuan Jr., the authorities have yet to publicly release vital documents, including the police case referral report (which should contain a summary of the evidence and findings of the investigator, and serve as basis for the prosecution of the case/s).

As important, there are no publicly available copies of any other presidential issuances covering the grant of so-called “blanket authority” for Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno to deal with the “state of emergency” in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City. What has been uploaded on the website of the Office of the Press Secretary is just a six-paragraph Presidential Proclamation No. 1946 dated November 24, 2009, which does not spell out the broad powers supposedly vested in Puno by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, according to her Press Secretary Cerge Remonde.

The “blanket authority” granted to Puno is not contained in any presidential issuances on record. It was just discussed in a press release of the Office of the Press Secretary and in press statements of Remonde.

11. Government resources used to fly Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his lawyer Sigfried Fortun

The WPP’s Team said government used an Air Force aircraft to fly in Ampatuan’s lawyer Sigfried Fortun from Cotabato City to General Santos City, after Ampatuan refused to avail himself of the services of a public attorney. What this means is that the government spent government resources to fly in the private lawyer of the man it is charging with multiple counts of murder.

12. Government response to the situation has not fully eased the anxiety and fear of the residents and media workers in the affected areas; the threats to the safety and security of the communities linger, especially with the forthcoming elections likely to fire up the tension between partisan rivals and political clans

National media coverage of the situation has inordinately focused on the rivalry for political power between the clans, inchoate images of the tragedy, and disjointed statements from the investigators, Malacanang officials, and political partisans. Little attention has been given to the gaps in the work of the police, investigators, and prosecutors.

The massacre claimed nearly an entire generation of journalists from the small print and broadcast communities of General Santos, Koronadal City, and nearby areas. At least 22 of the 31 fatalities were married and had children, indicating an enormous need for continuing humanitarian assistance.

TIMELINE: The Maguindanao Massacre

Compiled by MindaNews for the FFFJ-NUJP Fact-Finding Team

Friday, 20 November

First day of filing of certificates of candidacy nationwide.

“When the period of filing of candidacy was opened last 20 November 2009, there were rumors that the Ampatuans will strongly object on (sic) the fielding of candidates from the Mangudadatu side, though there were no solid indicators as to what actions they will be undertaking”

“Information on the plan of the group of Toto Mangudadatu to file his candidacy circulated in Maguindanao”

Philippine National Police sets up six new additional checkpoints (along the 27-kilometer stretch of the GenSan-Cotabato highway (from Datu Sangki at the boundary of Sultan Kudarat, to the crossing of Salbu, Datu Saudi Ampatuan), in relation, purportedly to Oplan Kontra Boga.”

Three of these checkpoints are in Ampatuan town within the vicinity of where the convoy would be stopped three days later.

Checkpoints set up at Barangay (village) Salbu, DSA; Barangay Labu-labu, Shariff Aguak; Barangay Poblacion, Ampatuan; Barangay Masalay, Ampatuan; Crossing Saniag, Barangay Saniag,Ampatuan; and Barangay Poblacion, DSA.

Sunday, 22 November

10 p.m.
Four journalists from South Cotabato and General Santos arrive at the BF Lodge in Tacurong City: Aquiles Zonio of PDI, Joseph Jubelag of Manila Standard Today, Paul Bernaldez, photojournalist of Abante, and Alejandro “Bong” Reblando of Manila Bulletin.

At least eight others, who had been staying there for the Kalimudan festivities which ended Sunday, also spent the night there.

Monday, 23 November

Journalists gather at the residence of Buluan, Maguindanao vice mayor Ismael “Toto” Mangudadatu. Target time for jump-off to Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao is 9 a.m. but is delayed due to security concerns (interview with Aquiles Zonio, Jubelag, Bernaldez, 24 Nov).

The Mangudadatus had allegedly sought police and military assistance but were turned down. The military later explained two battalions had just pulled out, and requests for election-related security concerns are to be coursed through either the police or the Comelec, which then makes the request to the military (interview with 601st Bde chief Col. Medardo Geslani, 24 Nov)

Henry Araneta (or was it Teodoro) sends a text message to wife at 6:58 p.m. expressing fear that trouble could erupt. The text message that Henry sent that his wife forwarded read thus:”Ok mang ky ari pa kami sa buloan. May problema kame ayaw magbigay ng body guard ang mga AFP/ bsi mag ka bakbakan ngayon mang.”

9:30 a.m.
Convoy of three vans, Manila Standard Today correspondent Joseph Jubelag’s car and UNTV moves out of Buluan with the UNTV vehicle as lead. En route to Shariff Aguak, Jubelag opts to break away from the convoy for personal (actually, security-related) reasons. Aquiles Zonio who is in the lead vehicle gets out to join Jubelag. Bernaldez also joins Jubelag (interview with Aquiles Zonio, Jubelag, Bernaldez, 24 Nov).

The breakaway group returns to hotel where Aquiles is told two men on board a motorcycle vehicle had come to ask for the names of journalists who checked in. Hotel personnel say they didn’t give names. Aquiles said they did not give their names upon check in.

Aquiles relates motorcycle-riding men story to Jubelag who sends a text message to Reblando. Reblando sends Jubelag’s message to Aquiles at 9:58 a.m.

On their way back to the house of Mangudadatu, they called on their companions but no one answered.

11 a.m.

Information received states that five (5) civilian vehicles heading toward the Municipality of Ampatuan, Maguindanao, from the Municipality of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat, was flagged down by undetermined number of fully armed men at vicinity GC 51NXH 614542 Barangay Masalay, Ampatuan, Mag. Accordingly, said civilian vehicles together with undetermined number of passengers were taken by the armed men towards vicinity GC 51NXH 590529 Barangay Saniag, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

11 a.m.

Bde Commander gave instructions to 64IB to conduct operations to rescue the reported abducted persons

1 p.m.

64 IB forces arrived at Barangay. Masalay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao and coordinated with Chief Inspector Dicay of 15th RMG (Dureza identified him as deputy police chief) who were conducting checkpoint thereat. Per conversation with Chief Inspector Dicay, he conveyed that they have no knowledge on the alleged abduction that was reported.

1:30 p.m.
64IB with four armored vehicles advanced east toward Barangay Saniag to conduct rescue operations where the abducted persons were allegedly brought.

2:50 p.m.

The troops sighted six (6) vehicles along the trail after traversing approximately three (3) kilometers from the highway at vicinity GC 51N XH 590529 Barangay Saniag, Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Suspecting that these are the vehicles which were missing, troops immediately proceeded to the site.

3:00 pm

Helicopter of Mayor Jhong Mangudadatu lands in sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman.

Twenty-one persons found dead inside and outside vehicles, on the ground. Fifteen females, six males, with multiple gunshot wounds in the different parts of their bodies.

Five vehicles were also found in the area as follows: four (4)Toyota Grandia with plate numbers MVM 789, MVM 884, MVM 885 and LGH 247, one (1) Pajero with plate number MCB 335 and one (1) backhoe. Other items that were seen in the site were various personal items, assorted empty shells and other documents. Troops immediately secured the area to preserve the crime scene prior to the arrival of the PNP SOCO Team for proper investigation.

Note: In a telephone interview with VM Mangudadatu, he said they did not send Mayor Mangudadatu’s helicopter to provide air cover to the convoy because they did not want any provocation and the helicopter providing air support may be mistaken for a provocation.

VM not clear exactly what time helicopter was sent, given that the abduction was at 10 a.m. and the landing of the chopper at crime site was 3 pm.

He said he recalls the chopper was on air for about an hour (?) and had even reached Shariff Aguak before they saw the vehicles in Barangay Salman.

VM says the helicopter hovered until the soldiers arrived. Note in the briefing for Gonzales that the time difference is 10 minutes.

6 p.m

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza proposes declaration of state of emergency and wants everyone in Maguindanao disarmed.

10 p.m.

The PNP SOCO Team under Chief Supt Felicisimo Khu arrives at the crime scene and immediately conducts investigation.

Tuesday, November 24

8 a.m.

A total of 22 bodies found.

By the end of the day, 24 more bodies dug from Gravesite 1, in what ground commander, Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu describes as “layered” burial to deceive them. “Bodies, soil, bodies, soil, bodies soil,” he said. He recalls around six layers of bodies/soil.

9 a.m.

Briefing conducted by the military officers for Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and Crisis Management Committee in General Santos City.

12 noon

President Arroyo meets with CMC head Dureza, SND, Eastmincom Chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, et al in a teleconference at the brigade.

Nearly 2 pm

Dureza proceeds to Ampatuan Sr.’s mansion in Shariff Aguak. Waits an hour for Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. to be presented to him (Attached is Dureza’s account of “The Maguindanao Massacre:The Four Critical Days”, published in Mindanews,

State of Emergency declared over Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City

Team secures copy of Nov. 24 Powerpoint briefing for Gonzales

Wednesday, November 25

9 a.m.

Fact-Finding Team from Manila arrives in GenSan; proceeds to meeting with Dureza at 601st Bde in Tacurong City but Dureza decides to have “dialogue” with media instead (meaning, together with other media)


Team proceeds to massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Team leaves area around 3 p.m. with six more bodies retrieved. By evening a total of 11 bodies were retrieved that day.

On Nov. 23, the day of the massacre, 21 bodies were recovered.

By morning of Nov 22, one more body, for a new total of 22 bodies
By end of Nov 25, another 24 bodies recovered, for a new total of 46 fatalities.
By end of Nov 26, another 11 bodies recovered for a new total of 57 fatalities.

Team arrives in Koronadal City but only DSWD and PIA staff left behind in Plaza Ramona, venue of Dureza’s meeting with families. Carol’s initial list of victims reconciled with DSWD’s new listing.

The Fact-FindingTeam interviewed ground commander, Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu. The residents’ account of the timeline jibed with Khu’s timeline. Like Khu said, the residents said they saw the convoy (the residents counted seven vehicles, Khu said there were six vehicles) enter the area around 10 am.

The residents said they then heard a brief but very intense burst of automatic weapons fire and after a few minutes, saw around 50 armed men crossing the hills in the direction of Shariff Aguak. It was after this that the backhoe entered the area.

Khu’s account was that around half an hour after the convoy was diverted to the massacre site, a trailer brought the backhoe to the highway crossing that leads leading to the site. The backhoe then enters. According to Khu, just before the Army arrived, the prime mover (cab) of the trailer disengaged and fetched the backhoe operator, which accounts for why troops reportedly found the backhoe engine still running.

Also, it was Khu who first confirmed the interception by the troops of two CVO (civilian volunteer organization) members, one armed with an M-16, the other with a shotgun (Khu described it as a major break since only one victim, Bong Reblando, was killed with a shotgun). The two CVOs were reportedly turned over to Ampatuan police OIC SPO4 Badawi Bacal, who turned them over to the vice mayor. The two CVOs had not been heard from since.

This, said Khu, was the reason why he recommended Bacal’s relief. Although later news reports said the two CVOs had been found.


Team attends candle-lighting rites and rally at roundball, Koronadal

Late evening

TV news announces expulsion of Ampatuan Sr. and Jr. and Ampatuan the ARMM governor, from Lakas-Kampi.

Nearly midnight, Carol receives text message that VM Mangudadatu will proceed to Shariff Aguak the next day to file his COC, to be escorted reportedly by Lakas-Kampi standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro.

Thursday, November 26

8 a.m.

Events to choose from: VM Mangudadatu proceeding to Shariff Aguak to file COC or what Dureza’s staff asked us to choose which: possible turnover of Mayor Ampatuan to Dureza at provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak or Dureza turning over Mayor to Justice Devanadera in General Santos City.

Team opts to proceed to Shariff Aguak as the possibility the Ampatuans won’t yield also loomed.

VM Mangudadatu cancels filing for another day.

10 a.m

Dureza’s chopper had not left Tacurong brigade.

11:13 a.m.
Two Hueys arrive, escorted by two MG-520s.

11:42 a.m.

Convoy of Ampatuans enters Maguindanao Provincial Capitol gate from mansion 400 meters away. Tension filled the air. Media-savvy Dureza opts to stay where chopper is. Mayor is accompanied by ARMM Solicitor General Cynthia Guiapal-Sayadi.

11:49 a.m.

Helicopters carrying Dureza, Mayor, etc.. fly to General Santos City for turnover of mayor to Justice Devanadera.


Inquest in GenSan delayed as helicopters had to fetch the mayor’s counsel, Siegfried Fortun, from the Cotabato City airport.

Inquest done. NBI “arrests” mayor.

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadeta and suspect Datu Unsay Andal Ampatuan Jr fly to Manila.

Friday, November 27

Gilbert Teodoro escorts VM Mangudadatu to Shariff Aguak to file certificate of candidacy.

Fact-Finding Team meets with DOJ team (Dacera, Calica, etc….)

Dr. Raquel Fortun arrives; arrangements made with Dureza for Dr. Fortun to visit the massacre site next day.

Saturday, November 28

Dr. Fortun goes to massacre site with Ed Lingao and conferred with the first responders.

Dr Fortun and Ed only allowed to view (and photograph) vehicles from a distance, but not to inspect the vehicles.

Other Fact-Finding Team members proceed to Koronadal City to meet with families.

Sunday, November 29

Fact-Finding Team proceeds to Sto.Nino to meet with Henry Araneta’s family, and then to Koronadal’s outskirts for Andy Teodoro, as Atty. Quinsayas assists in final draft of affidavits, at the DOJ meeting place.

Monday, November 30

Carol sends text message to Calica in the morning re arrangements for filing of case in Cotabato City Tuesday. Calica replies he would. He did at nearly 10 p.m. simply to say we must be there by 8 a.m.

Tuesday, December 1

4 a.m.

Davao-based team members proceed to Cotabato City for case-filing

Twenty-five counts of murder filed against Mayor. Subpoena to be issued to eight other Ampatuans to present their counter-affidavits.


KILLED in the MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE, November 23, 2009

(Prepared by Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility based on data

gathered by the FFFJ-NUJP Fact-Finding Team)

Based on an interview with one of the three journalists who decided not to join the Mangudadatu convoy to Shariff Aguak, 34 journalists/media practitioners signed up for the coverage event. The Fact-Finding Team has verified that of the total, 30 media workers were killed, while another one remains missing.

Thirty-one of the 57 persons (or 54 percent) killed in the Ampatuan town massacre were media practitioners. (The body of another r journalist is still unaccounted for. A relative said a family’s friend identified the victim’s body at the site but that the family could not find it later at the funeral homes.)

Twenty-seven of the 31 media practitioners (or 87 percent) killed were males. Four were females.

Most of the media practitioners killed were based in General Santos City (14 out of the 31 or 45 percent).

Most of the media practitioners killed (about 22) had children. Sixteen of them were said to be married.

Almost 68 percent (or 22) of the media practitioners killed were working for newspapers and tabloids.

Most of the journalists killed worked for Mindanao-based newspapers (12 newspapers). One victim, Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, worked with a wire agency (stringer of Reuters).


First posted Monday, 30 November 2009

“The Maguindanao Massacre: The Four Critical Days”

by Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, head of Crisis Management Committee on Maguindanao

(Note from MindaNews Ed: The following is an account by Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza on his recollection of the “four critical days” following the Ampatuan Massacre – referred to by him as the “Maguindanao Massacre.” Dureza was a journalist in Davao City before he became a lawyer and politician).

DAY ONE –Nov 23 (Monday)

I was monitoring closely reports about a missing convoy in Maguindanao with media friends. Later in the day, reports of mass murder of the Mangudadatus were confirmed. Allegedly by Datu Unsay Ampatuan Jr. et al. My instincts told me this could very well be a very explosive situation. . When media called, I said I would recommend proclaiming a state of emergency. At 8 p.m. SND Bert Gonzales and I met. He told me the President had directed that I act as “crisis manager.”

DAY TWO – Nov 24 (Tuesday)

Bert and I took the earliest flight to Gen Santos City. At the 601st brigade in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat, briefings were held. Initial photos of the carnage were flashed on the screen. Gruesome! Next we met with the Mangudadatus, many of them my personal friends.

They were tense and angry. They wanted to retrieve the bodies immediately. They demanded justice, immediately. The Ampatuans did it, they said. After Bert and I expressed government’s resolve to do everything possible, Toto Mangudadatu said they will cooperate. No retaliatory action but government must give justice.

12 NOON – A teleconferencing call connected Bert and me to the Palace where the President was presiding over a hastily called security meeting. We were getting specific instructions from her. So did Bert, PNP Chief Jess Versoza and AFP Vice CS Maclang who arrived with us. Her voice had that sense of urgency. Inputs from the other cabinet members were also relayed.

1:00 PM – The crisis management committee was activated. Assisting me were Eastmincom Gen Ferrer and PNP 12 Director Serapio.

2:00 PM – Bert left to fly back to Manila. Col Geslani, brigade commander assisted in setting up the command center. It was at this time that I operationalized an action plan I quietly formulated in my mind. It was a simple plan drawing lessons from past experiences.

3:00PM – Having talked with the Mangudadatus, I decided to go see the Ampatuans in Shariff Aguak. I felt confident. Both families were my friends. And I had direct access to them. With my staff and without military escorts, except for one military officer, Col Macario as guide, I motored to the Ampatuan residence.

3:45PM –I entered the Ampatuan fenced premises and the patriarch Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr was there waiting for me. With him seated in a “ bahay kubo” on the sprawling grounds were several ARMM and Maguindanao officials and relatives. Armed followers were everywhere.

After informing Gov. Andal that my purpose in coming was because of the incident and that his son, Mayor Datu Unsay Ampatuan, Jr. was implicated , I told “Bapa” Andal that it would be best that the Ampatuans also “cooperate”. I said that Datu Unsay should submit to an investigation. He immediately said: “ OK. Kausapin mo s’ya. Ipatawag ko si Datu Unsay. Basta kayo secretary walang problema”. I told him I wanted to see Datu Unsay as I got reports that he was missing or had escaped. Bapa said: “Hindi yan totoo. Darating si Datu Unsay. Magpakita sya sa yo secretary.” Bapa Andal as usual, was a man of few words. We then went inside the house to wait for the son’s arrival. In the meantime, ARMM Gov Zaldy Ampatuan and Cong. Digs Dilangalen arrived from the airport. Usec Zam Ampatuan, Atty Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi (ARMM Solicitor General), among others, was there, too. I felt a bit tense and uncomfortable. I did not want to start talking about the incident until Unsay would arrive. We were chatting for about an hour trying to divert the issue and loosen up. A lively conversation centered on how many children some of their relatives had. One relative had 70 children. Of course, from several mothers. Etc.

4:30PM – We waited. I noticed that Atty. Cynthia was using her cellphone and taking pictures while we were chatting. Unsay arrived and got seated on my left. We continued a bit about our light banter until Unsay settled down. (GMA7 later that same evening showed some pictures on TV. My wife Beth texted me and called my attention immediately when she saw it: “Bakit ka smile kasama mga Ampatuan. Not proper.” I agreed. But I was puzzled where the pictures came from and who sent them. There were no media people around. I surmised Cynthia did it.)

5:00PM. – I was becoming worried that darkness would overtake my return trip to Sultan Kudarat. Many armed and uniformed men on the highway. One could not tell what group or unit. So when Unsay got seated, I immediately told him that I came because of the serious incident and that initial reports mentioned his name as involved. I told him my purpose in coming was only to be assured that he would cooperate and submit himself to any investigation. He looked at the direction of Gov Andal who spoke first: “ Gaya ng sinabi ko sayo kanina, magcooperate kami, secretary”. Then Unsay himself echoed saying: “Mag cooperate po kami secretary”. I then stood up and said I would contact them again soon.

We arrived in Marbel already dark and stayed there for the night.

DAY THREE, Nov 25, (-Wednesday)

830AM, I visited a funeral parlor in Marbel. Some bodies not identified yet. I then directed DSWD 12 to attend to the immediate needs of the families, and that DOH 12 and OCD 12 were to assist. I motored to Tacurong at 601st brigade and met the NBI team that just arrived from Manila. I reconvened the crisis committee and mapped up moves on how to fast track work. A team of PNP investigators were sent to the residence of Buluan Vice Mayor Toto Mangudadatu to get statements but they were told that affidavits of their witnesses would be submitted instead perhaps the following day. I was already aware that the outrage over the killings mounted. And government was being criticized for slow action.

12 NOON –Over lunch at the brigade, I consulted with the crisis committee on my plan: it was time to contact the Ampatuans and call in Datu Unsay to voluntarily surrender. As they committed to me yesterday.

I was also quietly informed that an operational plan was underway to forcibly take custody of him.

2:00PM – On my way to Marbel to dialogue with all the families of the victims, I made several calls. First with ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan. I told him it was time to bring in Datu Unsay. He told me he would consult the father, Gov. Andal. I said I had only until 5 pm that day to work on this plan. After 5pm, the scenario would no longer be the same, I told him.

4:00PM – While meeting the families of victims in downtown Marbel, I got a call from the father, Gov Andal telling me that he would turnover to me Datu Unsay but requested that the deadline be moved from 5pm today to 10 AM, the following day. I immediately told him I could not guarantee things if the deadline was moved. He said the Ampatuan clan would meet that evening and discuss things and bid goodbye to Datu Unsay. I told him I would get back to him by phone. I made calls and informed some of my colleagues (with whom I had been consulting from the beginning) of the request.

There were objections. Understandable reservations: what if the extension was a ruse to escape that evening? What were the guarantees that he would voluntarily surrender during the new deadline? People were becoming outraged not only on the crime but on the perceived slowness of government, so why waste more time? The forces were ready to strike, so why delay?

But I also reasoned back: How sure are we that we would get Datu Unsay in the operations? (From yesterday’s visit to the Ampatuans, I was certain that he was not there in the immediate vicinity but came from somewhere far.) An assault would surely cost lives knowing the armaments, the culture and the situation. People were crying for swift action but I would not agree to precipitate action. I also said I believed Gov Andal was sincere when he told me he would bring out his son when needed. To wrap up my point, I said: I would take full responsibility for whatever outcome.

My new timeline was adopted. I moved the deadline to 10:00AM the following day.

That night, we reviewed the “pickup” scenario several times and mapped out contingencies just in case things would not go as planned. In the meantime, government troops moved according to operational plans. That evening, I got a call from Atty. Cynthia getting an assurance from me that nothing would be launched that evening until the 10 AM pickup time the following day. I told her if there were troop movements, these were in support of the 10 AM “pickup”.

Later in the night, another complication suddenly arose. Gen Serapio and Col Geslani informed me that they got information that Toto Mangudadatu would motor with his followers to file his certificate of candidacy the following morning in Shariff Aguak. I immediately called Gov. Teng Mangudadatu. I told him that there was something afoot the following morning and that without disclosing what it was all about, I requested if he could convince Toto to move his filing to another day. A few minutes later, Gov Teng called and said the clan agreed.

D-DAY, Nov. 26 (Thursday)

6:00AM–Early morning, government forces took over and occupied the ARMM facilities and other buildings and premises in Maguindanao province. Armed elements loyal to the Ampatuans were taken by surprise and gave up their firearms without resistance.

I was nervous a bit but confident. The “what if” scenarios kept popping up in my mind. I motored to the 601st brigade for the final briefings. The choppers would pick me up from there. Gen Ferrer and I watched as more newly arrived troops were jumping off towards designated areas.

9:00AM – I was informed that something went wrong with the Huey helicopters coming from Cotabato . The Davao choppers were instead dispatched but would not be able to arrive by 10AM.

9:55AM – I got a call from Col Geslani whom we tasked to liaison with the Ampatuans that they were requesting for a little time as they were waiting for their lawyer who was still on the road to arrive. That was a break I needed. The 2 choppers arrived. We discussed with the pilot and crew contingencies and procedures.

10:45AM, we were ready to jump off upon cue from Col Geslani. It would be a short 35 minute hop from the brigade to Shariff Aguak. My staff Cecil said she’s getting nervous but insisted on joining. My assistant, Yo was busy texting. But wait, another problem suddenly cropped up. As we were boarding, one the 2 PNP officers tasked to escort the suspect said they could not use the handcuff on Ampatuan as the KEY WAS MISSING! What about the other handcuff with your buddy, I asked. “Ganon din po sir”, he replied. “Sh_t!” I almost fell from my seat!.(”Sarap sapakin!”) But there was no more time. We then agreed that he would be strapped with the seat belt and the policemen would firmly clasp the buckles to prevent any unexpected situation while airborne. (When I was asked later by reporters why Ampatuan was not handcuffed, I had a ready curt answer with a straight face: “He is adequately restrained!”. Sec Agnes promptly responded with the same line when she was asked upon landing in Manila. )

11:20AM Two Hueys landed on the Maguindanao province capitol grounds. The Huey engines were not shut off as agreed in case a sudden exit maneuver was necessary. I waited for 20 minutes on the ground. I was getting worried. Finally, I saw my staff Ollie with his thumbs up sign. Col Geslani signaled, they were on their way. My “what if” scare disappeared. The capitol gates opened. The Ampatuan family arrived on board vehicles from another location nearby. Gov Zaldy clasping my hand said: “Ipaubaya ni amah si Datu Unsay sayo” and turned over Datu Unsay to me. We boarded the aircraft with Atty. Cynthia, insisting she had to ride with him.

11:40AM, Helis took off enroute Gen Santos City where Sec. Agnes and her crew were waiting for an inquest proceeding. But again something happened. About a few minutes airborne and while still climbing and gaining altitude, I first noticed some flapping sound outside. I thought, maybe some loose parts of the chopper. The noise kept coming, intermittent. I looked down and maybe I saw flashes but I was not sure. Suddenly the Huey banked sharply to the right and simultaneously, several short bursts from our two Huey gunners at the back. The bursts startled all of us. The evasive maneuver by the pilot also jarred us. All of us kept our heads low as the Huey steeply climbed. My staff Jerry and Col Mac, who were seated beside the open Huey doors ducked. The soldier at the back shouted, “ground fire, sir”. We still climbed. The flapping sound from outside could not be heard anymore. The gunners later told me ground fire sounded like flapping from the air. The evasive action and the machinegun bursts were SOP. At 2,000 feet altitude, we cruised. That’s when I saw on the Huey floor an empty shell from the bursts of the M-60 machinegun on board.

I picked up the empty shell, then pocketed it for good luck.

At the Gensan airport, I called the Boss: “Mission accomplished, Mrs. President.”

(Note from Dureza’s staff: Dureza had successfully handled past crises situations notably the “detention” by MNLF Saber Malik of Marine Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino and OPAPP Usec Ramon Santos in Sulu in 2007; the handover of Misuari from Malaysian authorities to face rebellion charges in 2002; the surrender of convicted priest-killer escapee Manero in 2001; the release of Gen. Obillo and Capt. Montealto by NPA Commander Parago with the Capalla humanitarian team in 1999; the Cebu Pacific plane crash in Misamis Oriental in 1998; the Mindanao El Nino crisis in 1998; the Davao Penal Colony hostage situation in 1998.)


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