GUEST EDITORIAL|Maguindanao one year ago (Day Two)

(NOTE: Part 2 of  a 4-day series recalling 4 critical days of the so-called Maguindanao massacre authored by Dureza , former presidential adviser for Mindanao. He is now back in government as Peace Secretary)

NOV. 24, 2009 (TUESDAY)  - At the break of dawn, Sec Bert Gonzales  and I took  the earliest flight to Gen Santos City.    The medical checkup can wait, both I and Beth agreed. She’s been used to this kind of “sudden take off” schedules since my work as newsman in the 70’s and worsened by being in the presidential beck and call since President Ramos up to President Arroyo.

We motored from Gensan to Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat. It’s less than an hour drive. At  the 601st Army brigade headquarters in Tacurong,   a noisy crowd was milling within the barbed wire premises. Hoardes of mediamen whom I personally knew were there at the gate.  I told the guards to let everybody in.

10 AM  –Briefings were held. Also present were PNP Chief Jess Versoza,  EASTMINCOM Commanding General Ding Ferrer, Deputy AFP Chief of Staff Maclang, PNP Regional Chief Serapio. Brigade commander Col Geslani was our host.  Initial photos of the carnage were flashed on the screen. Gruesome! At that time, only a few bodies were retrieved from the backhoed area. Sec Bert told the crowd that we were personally dispatched by the president to attend to the situation. The Mangudadatus were there seated across the long conference table: Toto Mangudadatu, his brothers Jong and Mayor Dong of Pandag, Sultan Kudarat Gov. Teng Mangudadatu, Toto’s cousin and others.

They were tense and angry but otherwise trying hard to suppress and control their anger and anguish. They wanted to retrieve the bodies immediately.  They demanded justice, immediately.  The Ampatuans did it, they said. After Bert and I expressed government’s resolve to do everything possible, Toto Mangudadatu spoke and related the events,  how he spoke to his wife on the phone before she was murdered, identifying Datu Unsay Ampatuan as the lead perpetrator. But he ended by saying that, in the meantime,  he had appealed to his relatives and followers to refrain from committing any retaliatory action and would  leave the matter to the authorities to handle. (To be continued)

Posted in Opinion