I confirm that two individuals recently arrested by the Philippine National Police in Maguindanao are amongst the four suspects in the killing of Maguindanao massacre witness, Jessie. Bedo Pasawilian alias Bro Pasawilan and Morshed Salik Simpal were arrested Thursday, July 2, 2010, on the basis of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Ibrahim Banzawan for illegal possession of firearms.
Two witnesses, including an eyewitness to the killing, have positively identified the four shooters of Jessie. Both eyewitnesses are currently in the custody of CIDG ARMM. I have received reports likewise that a high-ranking official of the ARMM has been interceding to effect the release of the two suspects. One of those currently in custody and facing prosecution for 57 counts of murder is ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan.
Manhunt operations continue against two further suspects in the killing of Jessie. Until the PNP has apprehended or have declared that they have given up on the manhunt for the two other suspects, I will withhold the release of their names so as not to interfere with an on-going police operation. Meanwhile, I confirm that per consultations with CIDG investigators, the PNP has discarded the theory that Jessie’s killing was a result of a love triangle.
We note too that Jessie may not have died in vain. Secretary Leila De Lima has broken her silence and has confirmed that she met and heard the testimony of Jessie. She further added that the now deceased witness had to wait for three hours at her office awaiting for the DOJ Prosecutors to arrive. They never did. We are pleased likewise that amongst her first public pronouncements as Secretary of Justice was that she would to review, re-examine and audit the Department’s Witness Protection Program. We reiterate that this program is crucial to ending impunity as unless witnesses are given protection, they will not have the confidence to take the stand and to tell the truth.