Ampatuans ‘VIPs’ in jail

GENERAL SANTOS CITY—Even in their detention cell, the Ampatuans appear to live like kings.

The suspects in the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao apparently have mobile phones, catered meals, even someone who comes daily to clean their cell in the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) compound at the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Fermin G. Lira Jr.

Four members of the powerful clan that once enjoyed a close friendship with President Macapagal-Arroyo are being held at the CIDG lockup. Three are brothers—Zaldy Ampatuan, suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Sajid Ampatuan, former acting governor of Maguindanao; and Anwar Ampatuan, mayor of Shariff Aguak. The other is their uncle—Akmad Ampatuan, vice governor of Maguindanao.

Members of the media are barred from entering the CIDG compound. There is even a notice posted at the CIDG gate specifying the schedule of visits to the Ampatuans.

But it was observed that the Ampatuans’ lawyers, friends, caterer and cleanup man could enter the CIDG compound anytime without passing a security check.

Reporters covering the CIDG have no way of knowing the cost of the catering service and the Ampatuans’ daily menu.

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