Maguindanao update – Martial law and weapons found

MANILA – Troops on Saturday afternoon recovered more firearms and thousands of ammunition from a warehouse near the provincial jail in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao, allegedly owned by Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command, said the search started around 3:15 a.m., several hours after President Arroyo imposed martial law in Maguindanao.

Cabangbang said the items recovered from the warehouse include a military Humvee vehicle, an improvised armored vehicle and "several high end civilian vehicles."

He said a truck loaded with 330 boxes of 5.56mm M4 carbine ammunition marked Armscor, with each box containing 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

The military spokesman added that troops also recovered from the back of the warehouse 3 Elisco M16 rifles and 3 bandoleers.

An earlier ABS-CBN News report said one of the items recovered from the warehouse was an armored truck marked "PULISYA." The report added that troops also found several expired permits to carry firearms registered under the name of a certain Datu Zahid Ampatuan.

On Friday, joint police and military teams finished excavation at a vacant lot near the house of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan in Shariff Aguak.

Authorities said the war materials recovered from the vacant lot can supply a brigade-size unit of the military. Some of the ammunition recovered have markings which indicate that they were from the government arsenal.

Police believe some of the war materials seized were used in the massacre of 57 people in Ampatuan town last November 23. They said the war materials were buried at the vacant lot two days after the massacre, based on information from a resident in the area.

The raid at the warehouse was part of the security forces’ warrantless searches and arrests being conducted by virtue of President Arroyo’s Proclamation 1959, declaring martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Maguindanao.

Top government officials said the massing of forces and an uncovered rebellion plot to prevent the arrest of the Ampatuans prompted the President to place the province under a state of martial law.

The military has taken full control of the province, including the capitol compound and all municipal buildings.

Police have said that eight people, including the patriarch of the Ampatuan clan, Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., have been arrested since martial law was imposed in the province.

The other Ampatuan clan members arrested were the ARMM governor, ARMM Vice-Governor Akmad Ampatuan Sr., Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan, and Cahoner Ampatuan, a Sangguniang Bayan member of Shariff Aguak.

The other local officials arrested were Paisal Sulaik, a Sangguniang Member of Shariff Aguak; Keise Usman, regional secretary of agriculture and of the ARMM; and Kabuntalan Emblawa, regional environment secretary of the ARMM.

A total of six Ampatuans have been arrested, including another son of the Maguindanao governor, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., who has been charged with 25 counts of murder for the massacre.

Ampatuan Jr. is currently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila. Ampatuan Sr. and Zaldy have been brought to Davao City and General City, respectively.

Police said the armed bodyguards of the local officials have been disarmed and also arrested.

Reports said some of the people arrested were brought to a military camp in Barangay Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat town. With reports from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News, and Noel Alamar, dzMM

as of 12/05/2009 8:00 PM