Another Ampatuan Massacre Witness Killed; Gov’t Urged To Strengthen Witness Protection

by Ronalyn V. Olea

MANILA – Another witness in the massacre that claimed the lives of 57 individuals was recently found dead.

Esmail Enog’s body, cut into pieces, was found in Mamasapano, Maguindanao two months after he had gone missing, according to lawyer Nena Santos who represents the family of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu.

Enog testified in court the he drove 36 of the accused, four of whom he identified, to the massacre site in sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

“The Philippine government should redouble its efforts to protect witnesses in the Maguindanao massacre case. As the reported killing of witness Esmail Amil Enog underscores, these witnesses are in extreme danger and it is appalling that they are being hunted down one after the other,” Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

In the same vein, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said that “to ensure a fair and just trial of those charged with the Ampatuan massacre, it is crucial that the Philippines government protect the safety of all witnesses and their families.”

Enog is the second witness to be killed since the trial began. In June 2010, Suwaib Upham was also gunned down.

Pearson said Upham’s killers have not been brought to justice. “Relatives of other witnesses have also been harmed and there have been efforts to bribe witnesses to stop them from testifying,” she said.

“Witnesses won’t come forward if they and their families continue to be targeted. The government needs to act quickly to protect witnesses and their relatives, and to arrest and detain the remaining suspects,” Pearson said. “Aquino should make witness protection a priority to fulfill his promise of justice for the massacre victims.”

Andal Ampatuan Sr and sons Anwar Jr, Zaldy, Sajid and brother Kanor Ampatuan, are among the 196 individuals facing murder charges for the massacre.

Only 97, however, have been arrested and only 17 have been arraigned so far.

“It is incumbent on government, if it is sincere in giving justice to the victims of the gruesome mass murder, to ensure the safety of all witnesses and their families, as well as the victims’ families, regardless of whether or not they are in the witness protection program,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a separate statement.

Reports say that Enog refused to be enrolled in the government’s witness protection program and returned to Maguindanao after testifying.

The NUJP called on President Benigno Aquino III to order a full-blown investigation into Enog’s murder and why the victim had not been accorded the full protection. (Bulatlat.com)

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