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Key witness in Maguindanao massacre survives another ambush

MAGUINDANAO. On November 23, 2009, 58 individuals were shot dead and buried while still onboard their vehicles in what has become known as the Maguindanao massacre. (File Photo)

ONE of the primary witnesses in the gruesome Maguindanao massacre survived another attack in South Cotabato on Wednesday morning, June 3.

One of his two companions died, police said. A hot pursuit operation against the gunmen is ongoing.

Menito Siyal, also known as Mohammad Sangki, was injured in an attack at around 10:10 a.m. in Tantangan, South Cotabato.

Sangki, who is under the government’s witness protection program, was on his way to the airport when he was attacked.

With him in the vehicle were driver Richard Escovilla and Rey Fritch Pontanoza, a security personnel from the Department of Justice's witness protection program.

Escovilla was declared dead on arrival at a hospital in Koronadal City.

Nena Santos, who serves as legal counsel of some of the families of the massacre victims, said Sangki sustained injuries after the vehicle he was in hit two houses along the road.

Unidentified gunmen also shot at Sangki and his four companions in Barangay Mother Poblacion at around 5:30 p.m. on March 17.

No one was hurt in the incident.

"Very bold na ang gustong pumatay kay Mohamad, daylight and with DOJ WPP security pa," Santos said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will immediately order an investigation into the incident.

He expressed belief that it was connected to the Maguindanao massacre.

"Sangki is a vital witness in the second wave of prosecution for the Maguindanao massacre, and it is not farfetched that his ambush today had something to do with the horrible case," Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

Tagged as the worst election-related violence of the Philippines, the Maguindanao massacre saw 58 people, including 32 media workers, killed on November 23, 2009.

In December 2019, Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 convicted former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brothers, Anwar, Sr. and Zaldy, of 57 out of 58 counts of murder.

Sangki claimed he was with Andal Jr. when the plan was executed. (SunStar Philippines)


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