Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Philippines Court yesterday ordered the arrest of Andalo Apatuan Sr., former governor of the Autonomous Region of Mindanao, and 196 other men linked to his clan. They are accused of the massacre of 57 people on 23 November in Maguindanao (Mindanao). Ampatuan Sr. and 4 other members of his family are already in custody along with 51 other men of the clan, while 141 people are still fugitives. The Court's decision was made one day ahead of the beginning of the campaign for local elections in May 2010, which begins today. The aim is to avoid another Ampatuan candidacy and new politically motivated killings in the region.
"We will continue to hunt down the fugitives and to seek the weapons used in the massacre - says Francisco Montenegro, head of the Criminal Investigation and Detention Group - We have also gathered other evidence confirming the allegations." Montenegro says that among the fugitives, there were also 63 policemen and four members of the army.
On 23 November in Maguindanao a commando of about 100 armed men attacked a convoy of 57 people. These were members of the clan of Ishmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, vice-mayor of Buluan Ampatuan and principal opponent for governor of the province in the May 2010 elections of. Everyone in the convoy was killed in the attack. The dead also included Mangudadatu’s wife.To date, the only member of Ampatuan clan to be on trial is Andalo Apatuan Jr., son of former governor, on charges of having performed 41 of the 57 murders at the behest of his father.