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Philippine massacre trial begins

Andal Ampatuan Jr., former Mayor of Maguindanao has been charged with the murder of more than 30 journalists, apart from family members of rival politician Mangudadatu. If found guilty, he could be convicted for life.

Ampatuan Jr. in his prison cell

Ampatuan Jr. in his prison cell

Andal Ampatuan Jr., former Mayor of Maguindanao has been charged with 57 counts of murder of more than 30 journalists, apart from family members of rival politician Esmael Mangudadatu. If found guilty, he could be convicted for life.

Domestic help testifies against Ampatuan

A servant of the Ampatuan clan testified that he was present at the planning session before the massacre. Lapudin Saliao told the court he was serving drinks when the family sat down to discuss finer details of the execution. He said that Andal Jr. along with his father, the clan head, and that several relatives

Esmael Mangudadatu: before the massacre

Esmael Mangudadatu: before the massacre

and supporters were present. Ampatuan Sr. reportedly said that he wanted to stop rival Mangudadatu from contesting for the governorship of Maguindanao. Prosecuting lawyer Harry Roque said that the prosecution had lined up nearly 200 witnesses to testify against Ampatuan Jr. The trial was supposed to begin last week. However, Presiding Judge Jocelyn Reyes delayed it by seven days to give more time to Ampatuan's lawyers.

Ampatuans: total control of Maguindanao

Ampatuan Jr. and his men attacked a rally of his political rival Mangudadatu in November 2009. Although Mangudadatu himself was lucky enough not to be present in the convoy, Ampatuan Jr.

The site of the massacre

The site of the massacre

used more than 100 militiamen to attack and kill most of those who were present. He and dozens of other suspects in the case are being detained in Manila.

The Ampatuan clan is known to have controlled Maguindano for the past decade. It is believed that former President Gloria Arroyo had been patronizing the clan and turning a blind eye as they built their own private army to fight Muslim separatists and consolidate their political influence in the area.

President Benigno Aquino also faces a tough task as he tries to improve his image by bringing the wrongdoers to justice. His image has already taken a downturn as citizens and the media criticize him for his handling of the recent bus hijack case.

mg/rtre/dpa

Editor: Chi Viet Giang

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