Stiletto by Max Kolbe — March, 2010

Clan Ampatuan & the Munganao Flaks

As the Ampatuan clan in the Southern Philippines embarks on a dizzying array of pre-trial maneuverings, authorities have assured Andal Senior and his siblings that they won’t be fronting the courts alone for the massacre of 57 people, including 31 journalists.

Of the 197 people facing charges, 196 respondents, including 14 Ampatuans, were to be indicted for 41 counts of murder. Another 16 counts were yet to be ruled on in the November 23 Maguindanao massacre. Breathtaking!

Alleged ring leader, Andal Jr has been charged with 56 counts of murder, one shy of the 57 victims, because one body has not been identified.

Clan members charged are Andal Snr, Andal Jnr, Zaldy, Akmad, Anwar, Sajid, Jimmy, Kanor, Bahnarin, Mama, Saudi, Ulo, Ipi, Harris and, Moning. They all share the same family name.

In evidence already submitted to investigators, Kenny Daladag quoted Andal Snr as saying: “If the Mangudadatus pass by, kill them all, even the children, don’t leave anyone alive.”

Daladag was a member of Senior’s private army and the comments were made on the eve of the massacre in the patriarch’s home.

The Department of Justice has also found probable cause to charge Maguindanao police officers for alleged foreknowledge of the massacre, their failure to stop it and alleged participation by some officers.

The massacre was the biggest single slaughter of journalists in history.

Bail hearings had been postponed following a slew of motions filed by lawyers on behalf of Andal Jnr and Saudi. This includes a defense motion asking Quezon City Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to remove herself from hearing the case because of alleged bias.

Andal Snr was the governor of Maguindanao while his son Zaldy was governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARRM). They were close allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The other Ampatuans also held government positions in the provinces of the ARMM.

They were charged with killing members of the rival Mangudadatu clan who were on their way to Shariff Aguak to file a certificate of candidacy for Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu who intends to campaign for the governor of Maguindanao in upcoming elections.

This would have pitted him against Andal Jr.

Mangudadatu’s wife Genalin, two sisters and an aunt were killed along with the journalists, lawyers, supporters and innocent motorists who happened to be on the highway. More than 100 armed men allegedly led by Andal Jr. stopped the convoy and carried out the killings.

Amid the legal shenanigans the Ampatuan family has rejected reports that they were offering out-of-court settlements to relatives of the victims. Blood money is not uncommon in this part of the world.

Philip Pantojan, lawyer for the Ampatuan family, said he would not advise his clients to take such action as it would indicate °guilt” and talk of a settlement may have stemmed from complainants having doubts about the guilt of his clients.

However, outgoing Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said relatives of most of the victims in the massacre were not keen on accepting such offers.

Devanadera reportedly said she had talked to relatives of the victims, and most of them remain determined to seek justice as opposed to accepting blood money.

Further afield and on an improved note, Iran has released on bail four journalists and a retired professor held since a December 27 protest, the semiofficial Iran Labour News Agency reported.

Abdolreza Tajik, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Behrang Tonkaboni and Mohammad Javad Mozafar, who is also a prisoners’ rights activist, were released alongside retired professor Mohammad Sadeq Rabani.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi also announced that “detainees of recent unrest will be released due to the upcoming Iranian new year,” which falls on March 21.

In Lagos, sports journalist who thought their craft some what safer than their cousins covering politics are thinking again. Gunmen there have kidnapped three sports journalists working for an African satellite channel in the Niger Delta.

The SuperSport journalists, including two Nigerians and one South African, were near Warri on their way to an airport when they were attacked.

SuperSport journalist and announcer Charles Anazodo told The Associated Press that the South Africa-based sports network had yet to receive a ransom demand.

“On their way back to another match venue, they were robbed. A few of them were taken away,” he said. “The state governors of Imo state and Rivers state are working hard to ensure these guys are found.”

Niger had seen a lull in violence because of a government amnesty program.

In Zimbabwe, authorities are redefining petty crime after a local freelance journalist was arrested for a third time this year, simply for taking footage of prisoners outside a courthouse in Harare.

Officers of Zimbabwe’s Prison Service arrested Anderson Shadreck Manyere, an award-winning photojournalist and videographer, after he filmed the arrival of several men imprisoned since 2007 on allegations of plotting to overthrow the government.

According to members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) prison guards accused Manyere of taking footage °without the permission of the Commissioner of Zimbabwe’s prison service”.

How dare he!

Manyere was questioned and detained pending charges.

In Moscow, Russians have marked the 15th anniversary of the unsolved murder of the country’s most-popular television journalist, Vladislav Listyev.

Listyev, 38, was shot dead on March 1, 1995, next to his apartment, one month after having been appointed general director of Russia’s First Public Television Channel.

One of the first decrees after his appointment was the suspension of all television advertisements and commercials on Russian television.

Further south and former war correspondent John Kelly has died aged 82. Kelly was a prominent journalist who covered the Korean War before moving to Wollongong in Australia.

There he worked as the ABC Illawarra news editor in the 1960s. Former ABC journalist Janine Cullen said Kelly would be remembered as a highly professional and compassionate man.

“You work to a lot of tight deadlines and you know there can be tension but he was always calm, he always got the best out of his staff and he was just fabulous,” she said.


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Luke Hunt is a foreign correspondent, author and occasional photographer who has covered much of Asia fr the last 30 years.

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