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MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE - 6:23 a.m.) A prosecution witness in the trial of those accused of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre has been murdered.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said lawyer Nena Santos, who represents the families of several of the victims, reported that the brutalized body of Esmail Enog had been found in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province two months after he had gone missing.
He is the second key witness to the massacre who has been murdered.
Suwaib Upham was killed in June 2010.
The families of other witnesses have also been attacked, threatened, offered bribes and harassed.
Enog had testified that he drove 36 of the accused, four of whom he identified, to the site of the massacre in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman on the day of the mass murder.
The murdered witness was a brother of Rakim Amil, one of the 100 suspects, including key members of the Ampatuan clan, who have been arrested and detained.
Emog had refused to be placed under the witness protection program after he testified in court.
"It is incumbent on government, if it is sincere in giving justice to the victims of the gruesome mass murder, to ensure the safety of all witnesses and their families, as well as the victims’ families, regardless of whether or not they are in the witness protection program," the NUJP said.
It also demanded that President Benigno Aquino III "order a full-blown investigation not only into Enog's murder but, just as important, why he had not been accorded the full protection he deserved," and order as well "the state’s security and law enforcement agencies to arrest all the remaining massacre suspects who remain at large and, once and for all, disarm and disband the private army of the Ampatuan clan."
Human Rights Watch called on the government to “redouble its efforts to protect witnesses” in the massacre trial.
Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the witnesses “are in extreme danger and it is appalling that they are being hunted down one after the other.”
"Witnesses won't come forward if they and their families continue to be targeted. The government needs to act quickly to protect witnesses and their relatives, and to arrest and detain the remaining suspects," Pearson said. "
She urged President Benigno Aquino III to “make witness protection a priority to fulfill his promise of justice for the massacre victims."