Unsay's former lawyer, Raymond Fortun, had told the media on the eve of the verdict that his client would walk free as “if you're not able to connect the bullet to the gun to the gunman, in a murder case, you're not going to win ”.
Yet Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes had no need to connect the guns to the gunmen – she sentenced Unsay and 28 other defendants to life imprisonment without parole after finding them guilty “beyond reasonable doubt”.
In her 761-page judgment, she cited several key pieces of evidence and eyewitness accounts that had informed her decision. Here are three of them:
Lakmodin Saliao was a loyal and trusted servant to the Ampatuan family, having worked for them since 1987. In 2009, he was mostly in the employ of Bai Ameerah Ampatuan-Mamalapat, but two weeks before the massacre, she offered his services to her father, then-Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Snr – head of the Amapatuan clan.
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Saliao was to be the governor's manservant: preparing his medicines; tasting his food to check for poison; holding his phone while he spoke on speakerphone and scratching his back when it itched, as the judge noted.
Six days before the massacre, Andal Snr called together his brood to discuss how to stop Mangudadatu from contesting the governorship.
In his statement, Saliao said he heard Unsay, who was bent on becoming governor, say, “That's easy, father. Just kill them all. ”
At the end of the meeting, Andal Snr asked his sons and daughters:“ Is it OK with all of you to kill them all? ”, to which the children all stood up and “laughed”, Saliao said.
Another family meeting was called on the eve of the massacre to reaffirm the clan's intention to carry out the murders, Saliao said, with Zaldy Ampatuan, then-governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, telling his siblings he would go to Manila to act “as a diversion”.
The next day, Saliao overheard Unsay tell his dad over speakerphone “it's all over now, they've all been killed”, to which Andal Snr was “all smiles”, he said.
Saliao became a witness for the prosecution after his loyalties to the family were questioned by Bai Ameerah, Unsay's domineering sister, who wanted the manservant to help frame Mangudadatu in a fresh murder – ostensibly to prove his allegiance – according to an intermediary.
Bai Ameerah rejected any such assertion in court, calling Saliao a liar and a thief who revelled in sowing intrigue.
But his testimony was buttressed by that of two other witnesses: Armed Forces Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, then-spokesman for the army's Eastern Mindanao Command, who described Saliao as a “trusted aide” of Andal Snr, acting as his gatekeeper while the older man was undergoing treatment in a military hospital ; and the former command he of the governor's private army, Sukarno Badal, who confirmed that Saliao was a part of “every transaction” that Andal Snr made.
When the military arrived at the scene of the massacre at 1:30 PM on November 23, 2009 an abandoned yellow Komatsu backhoe completed the macabre scene of twisted bodies and crushed cars.
It had the markings, “Acquired under the administration of Datu [chief] Andal S. Ampatuan, Snr, Governor, and Provincial Council. ”
Efren Macanas, a backhoe operator employed by the province, testified he had brought the machine to the site but walked away when he heard gunfire, because he did not want to bury dead bodies for the Ampatuans again.
He claimed he had done so before in 2005 and 2008, and decided to come forward because his signature was on the receipt for the backhoe.
Fellow operator Bong Andal, who buried the bodies and cars using a spare key for the backhoe in Macanas' absence, testified that he did so because he feared for his life. Those who disobeyed the Ampatuans “were either scolded excessively, tortured or even killed ”, He told the judge, who jailed him for up to 10 years for acting as an accessory to murder.
The third key piece of evidence that contributed to the judge's verdict was the texts and call records from the day of the massacre.
These included a phone call to Mangudadatu from his wife Genalin at 10:18 am saying “there are many armed men here. Unsay has arrived. He slapped me, ”before the line went dead.
Then at around 10:30 am, lawyer Arnold Oclarit received a text message from his associate, Cynthia Oquendo, who told him in a frantic mixture of English and Visayan that she had been kidnapped, along with her dad and several others, and that she thought those responsible were from the Ampatuan clan. “We might get killed; they are firing. Please send to Tom,” she wrote, referring to Tomas Falgui II, who had acted as legal representative for the Ampatuans in the past.
The next message was more ominous, “Daghan patay [many are dead]they are shooting, please Tom.”
Falgui took to the witness box during the trial to confirm that Oclarit had relayed Oquendo's messages to him, and that h e had tried to contact his former clients without success.