News24

Grisly footage shown at trial

2010-01-20 10:15

Manila - A Philippine politician accused of killing 57 people displayed no emotion on Wednesday as grisly footage was shown in court of the victims' mangled and bloodied bodies being pulled from mass graves.

The video clips were part of evidence introduced by prosecutors against Andal Ampatuan Jnr, who is charged with murder over the election-related killings in the southern province of Maguindanao in November last year.

Filmed by a local government employee who accompanied police as they retrieved the victims from the mass graves in the two days after the murders, the video showed bloodied bodies, some of which were already decomposing.

As the footage was shown, a sister of one of the female victims broke down and had to be helped out of the courtroom.

A male lawyer representing the victims also rushed out of the silent courtroom, covering his mouth as he headed for the bathroom to vomit.

However Ampatuan Jnr, who has pleaded not guilty, had no visible reaction to the footage, at one point applying liniment to his neck as he stifled a yawn.

"He looked bored. It was like the most ordinary thing to watch," Lilian de Lima, head of the government's Commission on Human Rights who was in the courtroom, told reporters.

Prosecutors allege Ampatuan Jnr and about 100 of his gunmen abducted and shot dead the victims to stop a rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, from running against him for the post of Maguindanao governor in May elections.

Mangudadatu's wife and pregnant sister, as well as at least 30 journalists travelling with them, were among the 57 killed. Mangudadatu's relatives had been on their way to an election office to register his candidacy.

Police have said Ampatuan Jnr's father and namesake, the patriarch of the clan who was then governor of Maguindanao, should also be charged over the killings.

Ampatuan Snr and several other clan members were arrested after martial law was briefly imposed in Maguindanao and charged with rebellion.

However no date for his rebellion trial has been set, and prosecutors have yet to lay murder charges against him.

Before the killings, the Ampatuans were close political allies of President Gloria Arroyo, who armed and used them to help contain Muslim separatist rebels in the southern Philippines.