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Duterte helped find Maguindanao victims

COTABATO CITY – Now it can be told.

President Duterte, then mayor of Davao City, provided the helicopter that found the site of the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, according to Maguindanao Gov. Esmal Mangudadatu.

Without the discovery, Mangudadatu said the perpetrators would have succeeded in burying the victims and their vehicles in two big pits dug two to three days earlier before the carnage at Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Amatuan town.

Mangudadatu lost over a dozen of family members and female friend-lawyers in the massacre, including his wife, two sisters and nieces. Among the 58 killed in the massacre on Nov. 23, 2009 were 32 journalists.

“We owe a lot to him (Duterte). During the Maguindanao massacre, he helped us find a helicopter,” he said. “That’s one of the untold stories of how Duterte helped us.”

The story, untold for more than six years, was brought out in the when the Mangudadatus hosted Duterte last Friday in their hometown of Buluan.

Upon alighting from the car that shuttled him from his presidential chopper, Duterte and Mangudadatu embraced each other at the compound of the Green Earth Enersource Corp. (GEEC) in Buluan town past 3:30 p.m.

“Mahal ko kayo, Toh,” the governor quoted the President as whispering to him.

“Toh” is the short nickname of the governor, who is locally known since childhood as “Toto.”

The President’s gesture was “invaluable to my family…that no amount of money can substitute,” Mangudadatu said in his subsequent social media posts.

The President on Friday toured the GEEC palm oil mill in Buluan town that currently yields 1.3-megawatt initially of bio mass-based electricity out of prospected six-megawatt total output.

The Chief Executive ordered Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to release immediately P300-million assistance to further develop oil palm and other agricultural undertakings in Maguindanao, as he lauded the Mangudadatu family for linking up with Malaysian Chinese investors establishing vast plantations and the energy-yielding mill in Maguindanao.

Due to time constraint, Duterte did away with the “private meeting” segment of his itinerary, and brought the governor and his younger brother, former Buluan Mayor Jhong along in his chopper flight back to Davao City.

Jhong, whom the President acknowledged publicly as his “friend,” was the one who used the chopper provided by then Davao City mayor in searching for the massacre site.

The Mangudadatus described the President’s visit as “symptomatic” of a speedy dispensation of justice in the massacre.

“What the past administration failed to deliver in six years, President Duterte has started fulfilling in his few days in office. We are confident of conviction of principal suspects (in the massacre case trial),” Elizabeth Mangudadatu-Tayuan, the governor’s sister, said. (ALI MACABALANG)