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Witness recalls wife's last words before Philippine massacre

MANILA, Jan 27 (AFP) - A politician whose wife was massacred along with 56 other people in the southern Philippines tearfully recalled on Wednesday her terrified last words moments before she was killed.

Esmael Mangudadatu said his wife made one last mobile phone call to him just after she and the others had been abducted by gunmen, who were allegedly led by a rival politician, as they were travelling in a convoy on a remote road.

"She said, we have been stopped by so many men here. Armed men," Mangudadatu told a court in the trial of Andal Ampatuan Jnr, the rival politician charged with multiple counts of murder over the massacre.

"Unsay (Ampatuan Jnr's nickname) is here. He struck me," Mangudadatu quoted his wife as saying, as he fought back tears.

"Those were the last words of my wife."

Aside from Mangududatu's wife, Jennelyn, his pregnant sister and an aunt were in the convoy and were shot dead on November 23 last year in the southern province of Maguindanao.

Also in the convoy were lawyers and over 30 journalists who were travelling to an electoral office where Jennelyn was planning to register her husband's candidacy to run against Ampatuan Jnr for the post of provincial governor.

The massacre was allegedly the culmination of a fierce rivalry between the two Muslim clans who had long jostled for power in Maguindanao.

In his testimony, Mangudadatu said his clan decided to send his wife and female relatives to register for him because they expected a confrontation, but the police and military refused to give them escorts.

Mangudadatu said he thought Ampatuan Jnr would not harm women.

"Under Islam, women are given respect and are not harmed, regardless of religion," he told the court.

Mangudadatu broke down in tears at the witness stand when presented with pictures of his wife's body.

Ampatuan Jnr, who has pleaded not guilty and was in the Manila courtroom on Wednesday, sat quietly and occasionally conversed with his lawyers as Mangudadatu gave his testimony.

Ampatuan Jnr's trial is expected to last months, if not years. As there is no death penalty in the Philippines, he faces a maximum penalty of life in jail. (By Mynardo Macaraig/ AFP)

MySinchew 2010.01.27

 

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