2 years after massacre, more than 100 suspects remain at large
MANILA - Two years after the gruesome Ampatuan massacre that killed 58 people, police are still struggling to find more than 100 suspects tagged in the killings.
The special investigation task group created to probe the massacre admitted Tuesday to having difficulties tracking down the suspects, who have reportedly either fled to the mountains or changed names altogether. Out of the 196 suspects, only 95 have been arrested to date.
Chief Supt. Benito Estipona, SITG Maguindanao chief, said in an interview that they have reactivated 20 tracker teams to hunt down the suspects. Police have also proposed increasing the reward for the suspects but did not disclose how much the increase will be. Current reward is P300,000 for members of the Ampatuan clan and P250,000 for other suspects.
According to SITG Maguindanao records, of the 101 suspects who remain at large, 10 are members of the Ampatuan clan; 70 are militiamen or members of the private armed group; 10 are former policemen; four former soldiers; and seven Ampatuan "allies."
"The latest problems we encountered is that some have assumed new identities and it's very difficult for us investigators because we have to verify again," Estipona said.
Some are also reportedly "hiding in the mountains." Unconfirmed reports said some have sought shelter with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) communities. "But we are still validating these reports," Estipona said.
Nevertheless, police stressed there will be no let up in the hunt for the remaining suspects. "We will not stop until all suspects are brought to justice," he said.