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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesMonday, November 26, 2012
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Army assists in arrest
of massacre suspect

The police engaged the help of soldiers in the arrest of one of the suspects in the Maguindanao Massacre Saturday in Midsayap town, North Cotabato.

Negrense Col. Ademar Tomaro, 602nd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said the combined teams of police personnel assigned at Midsayap and Pikit towns, and operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, used his troops in arresting Bong Andal, the alleged operator of the backhoe that was used in digging the common graves for the 58 people, including 32 journalists, who were massacred in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.

Tomaro said the PNP coordinated with them in the arrest of Andal. “We only played a supporting role, the policemen were the major participants in the operation,” he said.

The Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, composed of four battalions, operates in the provinces of Cotabato and Maguindanao.

Hundreds of high-powered firearms, including heavy machine guns and anti-tanks weapons, and thousands of ammunition, some of which were government issued, were recovered in previous years from the Ampatuan clan, with some of its members already in jail.

The arrest of Andal, a former employee of the Maguindanao provincial government, came a day after the commemoration of the third year anniversary of the massacre. Ninety-one of the 196 massacre suspects remain at-large as of time.

Rights groups have blamed the killings on a continuing "culture of impunity" in the Philippines, where politicians are known to control their own armed militias and get away with murder in the backlogged justice system.

Last week, the government said 60 private armed groups controlled by politicians remained across the country, down from 112 at the end of 2010.

Dozens of other members of the Ampatuan family who were not accused over the massacre were also said to be preparing to run again in next year's local elections, officials said.*

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