MANILA -- An eyewitness to the gruesome murder of 57 people in Maguindanao last year broke down to tears Wednesday after he was asked to recount the alleged torture done by suspects before the victims were killed in a hilly village.

Norodin Zailon Mauyag, a resident of Sitio Malating in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, told the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 that alleged mastermind former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. slapped and made a warning shot in between the legs of a woman after pleading for her life.

Mauyag failed to identify the woman, but it was reportedly the wife of then Buluan Vice Mayor and Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, the chief rival of Andal Jr. in the last elections.

“We won’t fight you because we are women,” Mauyag quoted the woman as saying.

In November 23 last year, journalists and lawyers, mostly women, accompanied Genalyn in filing her husband’s certificate of candidacy for governor. They were in a six-vehicle convoy when attacked by a private army, purportedly of the Ampatuans.

Mauyag, who lives in a house near the checkpoint area, told Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes that he heard Datu Kanor Ampatuan issuing an order to block the convoy and herd them to a canteen near the national highway.

Datu Kanor is the brother of co-accused, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.

“I saw heavily-armed men wearing camouflage uniforms, others wearing blue and black. They were also ordered by Datu Kanor to stop the vehicles once they reach the checkpoint at Sitio Malating,” he said.

The witness added that suspended Maguindanao deputy provincial police director Sukarno Dicay was also at the checkpoint to stop the convoy, where he positively identified a white pickup truck belonging to UNTV network.

“They (men) forced the people to move out of the vehicles and pointed the victims with guns. The individuals were also frisked while lying face down to check if they were holding mobile phones. The order came from Andal Jr. himself,” said Mauyag.

The victims were later brought to Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao where they were shot to death using high-powered firearms.

Some lawyers in the defense panel refused to conduct their cross-examination on the witness while Andal’s counsel Philip Sigrid Fortun said he would proceed. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)