96th massacre suspect arrested
MANILA, March 27 – After evading arrest for 28 months, the long arm of the law finally caught up with another suspect in the celebrated Maguindanao massacre in a hospital in southern Philippines where he was undergoing treatment for injuries he sustained in a motorboat explosion at sea last Sunday, police said.
Nabbed was Datu Anwaripi Upam Ampatuan, 27, grandson of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and the 96th suspect arrested out of the 196 suspects wanted for the Philippines’ worst political massacre in the country’s history.
He was arrested at the Notre Dame Hospital in Cotabato City some 800 south of Manila. The Philippine government has put up a P300,000 (US7,000) cash reward for the capture of the young Ampatuan, dead or alive.
There are still 100 suspects at large.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said that the young Ampatuan was reportedly with a group of 118 Muslim rebels on board a motorboat when an explosion occurred off the coast of Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Several others on board were also injured.
The Ampatuan clan hs been a known political kingpin in Central Mindanao in southern Philippines for many years.
The Ampatuans allegedly masterminded the massacre that shook the world on Nov. 23, 2009, when 32 Filipino journalists were mowed down in broad daylight in Maguindanao province.
The 57 massacre victims were in a convoy of vehicles when they were shot by over 100 gunmen. The killings were politically motivated as the gunmen apparently tried to stop the candidacy of a rival candidate Esmael Mangudadatu who was running for governor of Maguindanao against Ampatuan.
"The arrested suspect has been admitted to hospital due to injuries sustained during the explosion," said Senior Superintendent Marcelo Pintac, Maguindanao provincial police director.
He said the police are still investigating what caused the explosion.
When the police learned that Datu Anwaripi Upam Ampatuan was being treated at the Notre Dame Hospital, they went there immediately to serve the warrant of arrest.
"He has warrants of arrest and we served it," Pintac said.
Aside from heavily armed policemen posted at the hospital to secure the suspect, additional Philippine Marine troopers are also deployed at the hospital premises after the police received reports that gunmen would try to rescue the wounded Ampatuan.
Several Ampatuan family members have been in police custody while being tried for mass murder before the court.
The trial is being held in suburban Taguig City in Metro Manila as a security precaution instead of in Maguindanao province where peace and order is a problem.