A RELATIVE of the powerful Muslim clan implicated patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. as the mastermind of the worst political killing in the country's history.

The court sketch of former video jock Ala Paredes shows the defense panel listening to the statements of witness Rasul Sangki, vice mayor of Ampatuan town. (Virgil Lopez)

Rasul Sangki, vice mayor of Ampatuan town, told the court Wednesday that Andal Ampatuan Jr. was tasked by his father to carry out the killings in a bid to maintain their grip on political power in the impoverished province of Maguindanao.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

First-hand witness Ampatuan town Vice Mayor Rasul Sangki listens to the translation of a woman tasked to interpret English interrogations from the prosecution and defense panels. (Virgil Lopez)

The 30-year-old distant kin of the Ampatuans claimed that he witnessed the blocking of the convoy of political rival Buluan Ismael “Toto" Mangudadatu last November 23, 2009, and up to the time the victims were tortured and later killed at a nearby hill.

The group traveled in a convoy to accompany Mangudadatu's wife to register her husband in the provincial Comelec office to run for governor against Ampatuan Jr. in the coming May elections.

Sangki said Ampatuan Jr. fired the first shot that led to the massacre of 57 people in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.

“It was Andal Jr. who fired the first shot,” Sangki said Wednesday’s hearing of the case filed against Ampatuan Jr. inside the makeshift courtroom at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame.

Sangki said the mayor used an M203, while Salibo Vice Mayor Kanor Ampatuan used a K3 to slaughter the victims.

The witness further said that shortly before the massacre took place, Ampatuan Jr. was on the “iCom” radio with Ampatuan Sr., informing him of the whereabouts of the Mangudadatu’s convoy.

He also told the court that he had seen the younger Ampatuan shoot two women and a journalist he identified as Jimmy “Pal-ak" Cabillo. The accused allegedly used an M-16 armalite where an M-203 grenade launcher was attached.

Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez answers media questions before the resumption of the multiple murder case trial of Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. Wednesday. (Virgil Lopez)

He said Ampatuan Jr. and his militiamen had fired at the bodies of the victims to make sure they were dead.

“Sinabi ni Datu Unsay na barilin ulit ang mga naunang pinagbabaril. Sinunod naman ni Kanor si Datu Unsay, inulit ang pagbabaril. Binaril ulit sila sa ulo, at sa ibang parte para siguradong patay talaga, finishing ba,” he said.

According to Sangki, he was on his way to Sitio Malating when he saw the backhoe, with the words “Province of Maguindanao, Governor Datu Unsay Ampatuan Sr.” heading towards the massacre site.

“Nakita ko yung driver ng backhoe. Medyo maputi, bilugan ang mukha, mukhang matangkad kasi parang nakayuko noong nakaupo sa bangko,” he said.

The witness also revealed that the younger Ampatuan told him of the planned ambush on the afternoon of November 20, three days before the gruesome massacre.

He said he arrived in Maguindanao on the same day from Manila because and while attending the Lakas-Kampi National Convention, he received a phone call from Ampatuan Jr. asking him to return to the province.


Lawyer Harry Roque of the slain journalists said he is confident on the statements of the first-hand witness. (Virgil Lopez)

Lawyer Harry Roque, who represented the 10 slain journalists, said the statements of Sangki are hard to disprove.

“It’s very difficult to dispute the testimony of someone who was there and who saw (the crime) with his own two eyes," he said.

The testimony only proves that the massacre happened and Ampatuan Jr. participated in it, Roque added.

“Malinaw na nagkaroon ng patayan at tingin ko malinaw ngayon na isa dun sa pumatay ay si Unsay,” he said, referring to Ampatuan Jr.

Mangudadatu, meanwhile, told reporters at the sidelines of the hearing that justice is within reach due to the “strong” evidences linking the Ampatuans to the massacre.

“Malapit na. Napakalakas ng ebidensya. Sana magtuluy-tuloy na ito,” he said.

Mangudadatu admitted he was surprised that Sangki had testified against the Ampatuans since he was a supporter and a relative of the powerful clan. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)