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A lawyer of a witness in the Maguindanao massacre case was wounded in a shooting incident in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato on Friday.
Richard Pitespe, lawyer of former Ampatuan vice mayor Rasul Sangki, was attacked by a still unidentified man between 9 and 10 a.m. in Cotabato City, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu told GMANews.TV.
Mangudadatu said he was informed about the attack on Pitespe by his legal counsel Nena Santos.
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Sangki, one of the prosecution’s witnesses, earlier told the Quezon City court hearing the multiple murder case that Andal Sr., the Ampatuan clanâ€™s patriarch, masterminded the killings.
The former vice mayor claimed he even witnessed the killings and overheard Andal Sr. giving instructions to his son and namesake Andal Jr. regarding what to do with the Mangudadatus, their rival political clan.
The killings were said to be carried out by Andal Jr., several of his relatives, and around a hundred members of the clan’s private army.
Killed in the November 23 massacre were Mangudadatu’s wife and sisters.
Several lawyers and 32 journalists were likewise killed in what is now regarded as the worst single-day, election-related violence in the Philippines.
Mangudadatu said Pitespe sustained a wound on his neck, but added the lawyer was already in “stable condition.”
Asked what could have been the motive behind the attack, Mangudadatu said: “Doon din iyan sa Maguindanao massacre.”
The assault on Pitespe came some three weeks after the killing of Suwaib Upham, a potential key witness in the Ampatuan carnage who claimed to be one of the seven gunmen in the massacre.
Prosecution private counsel Harry Roque claimed Upham was shot dead by an unidentified man after returning to his home province of Maguindanao.
Roque had blamed the Justice department for Upham’s death, saying the agency made it hard for the would-be witness to apply for the government’s witness protection program.
Roque, who represented the families of 14 slain journalists, later claimed that Upham’s killers used to work for the Ampatuans.
Mangudadatu would not confirm this to GMANews.TV but said he “already has a lead” on Upham’s attackers.
Intensify security efforts in Maguindanao
In light of the recent attacks on members of the prosecution camp, Mangudadatu urged the local police in Maguindanao to intensify their security efforts in the province.
“Kailangan ng masusing imbestigasyon dito sa kabulastugan ng mga nagpapapatay na ito [Wrongdoing like this should be thoroughly investigated],” he said.
He suggested that government forces stationed in checkpoints in Cotabato City should be placed under high alert.
As for Sangki’s safety, Mangudadatu said the prosecution witness was “okay and in good condition.”
He said Sangki was willing to re-appear in the hearings if the Department of Justice prosecutors would deem it necessary. â€” RJAB Jr./RSJ