x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Maguindanao police force to be replaced

All 1,092 police officers in a Philippine province will be replaced amid an investigation into an alleged role in an election-linked massacre.

All 1,092 police officers in a Philippine province will be replaced amid an investigation into an alleged role played by some of them in an election-linked massacre, the government said today. Fifty-seven people, including journalists and supporters of a local politician, were shot dead in the November 23 murders in the southern province of Maguindanao. Local politician Andal Ampatuan Jnr has been charged with 25 counts of murder, and authorities said they suspected members of the police force and military who were loyal to his powerful family may have also been involved.

The entire Maguindanao police force of 1,092 will be replaced in the coming days, said national police spokesman Leonardo Espina. Replacements have already been dispatched to three towns where about 60 officers were detained for their possible involvement in the massacre. "Those who were implicated were already placed under the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group," Mr Espina told a news conference.

The rest will be reassigned to other areas of the south, he added. "The order... is for the purpose of an impartial conduct of the investigation regarding the incident," Mr Espina said. Police allege Ampatuan and 100 of his gunmen shot dead the occupants of a convoy that included relatives of his rival for the post of Maguindanao governor in next year's elections, as well as a group of journalists.

The rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, said the killings were carried out to stop him from running for office. Ampatuan Jnr has been charged with 25 counts of murder so far, although prosecutors have indicated he will face more charges once all the death certificates have been processed. Prosecutors have said Ampatuan Jnr's father, the governor of Maguindanao who has the same name, and at least seven other members of his powerful Muslim clan are also being investigated.

Ampatuan Snr commanded his own private army in Maguindanao, supported by president Gloria Arroyo's ruling coalition who relied on his clan to deliver votes from the province in national elections. *AFP