Key witness in the Maguindanao massacre case killed
Suwaid Uphan was one of the gunmen who carried out the bloodbath. He had recently decided to turn state witness. He was murdered on 14 June, but his death made public only yesterday. The Philippines Justice Department is criticised for failing to protect the would-be witness.
Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Suwaid Uphan’s murder is still front-page news. He is one of the seven gunmen who carried out the Maguindanao massacre and a key witness in the trial against the Ampatuan clan, who are thought to have instigated the crime. He was killed on 14 June by persons unknown, but police made the news public only yesterday. His death follows that of a relative of another key witness, who was killed two months ago. For police, these deaths are a sign that the Ampatuans are trying to prevent witnesses from testifying at their trial. The Philippines Justice Department has been criticised for failing to protect Uphan.

Private prosecutor Harry Roque described Mr Uphan as “our strongest witness,” and his death could potentially weaken the case against the Ampatuans.

In March of this year, Uphan spoke to the al-Jazeera TV network and admitted that he was a member of the seven-strong death squad that killed 57 supporters of Ismael “Toto” Magundadatu, former Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr’s rival in the race for the post of governor in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In addition to admitting his own guilt, he named the other assassins, including Datu Unsay Andal Ampatuan, son of the former governor, who is currently on trial for his role in the massacre.

In May, Uphan also signalled his intention to cooperate with the government and testify against the Ampatuan clan.

He was supposed to meet Justice Department officials in a few days time in order to join the Witness Protection Programme.