MALACANANG was not surprised over the implication of patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. in the brutal carnage of 57 innocent people in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde told Sun.Star Thursday that they are expecting the name of the former Maguindanao governor to surface since intelligence reports reaching them pointed to the official having a hand at the massacre.

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“Well that is not a surprise already because we have been in receipt of intelligence reports about that,” Remonde said.

The Palace official also said their knowledge of Ampatuan Sr. allegedly being one of the brains behind the massacre has been one of the grounds why Maguindanao was placed under martial law.

“Precisely these are some of the basis of our earlier declaration of Martial Law,” he cited.

During the second hearing for the murder case of former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. Wednesday, Ampatuan’s distant relative Rasul Sangki who stood as one of the witnesses, pinpointed Ampatuan Sr. of masterminding the killing in order for their clan to stay in political power.

Sangki, who has claimed witnessing the actual massacre, said that Ampatuan Sr. was the one informing his son about the whereabouts of the convoy of the wife of their political rival Buluan Ismael “Toto" Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu’s wife was on the way to the provincial Comelec office to file the certificate of candidacy of Ismael who is running against Ampatuan Sr. for governor in the May elections.

Before reaching the Comelec office, the convoy that was also composed of several journalists and lawyers, was allegedly fired upon first by Ampatuan Jr. and then his men left no persons alive, Sangki further testified.

“So that does not come to us as a surprise anymore,” Remonde said over the implication of Ampatuan Sr.

But he was quick to clarify that their position of not being shocked does not mean of prejudging the Ampatuans.

“After having said that, I would like to make it clear also that this is not also prejudging the case or anyway we do not want to comment on the merits of testimonies because as our legal luminaries commenting on the merits of the case will be contumacious,” he said.

He meanwhile said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is closely monitoring the progress of the case. “The President is monitoring the case because as we have said in the past, the President wants justice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre done hopefully within her term.”

“She (Arroyo) is very closely monitoring the case and I think like most people we are also satisfied with the progress of the case,” Remonde added. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)