SHARIFF AGUAK ? (UPDATE 9) A key suspect in the gruesome killings in Maguindanao province and member of a powerful clan in Mindanao has surrendered to authorities and would be flown to Manila.
Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., has been identified as having masterminded the massacre last November 23 that claimed the lives of at least 57 people, including 18 journalists who were supposed to cover the filing of candidacy for governor of the Ampatuans? political rival, Buluan Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.
Ampatuan Jr., accompanied by Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on Mindanao, arrived in General Santos at 12:25 p.m., clad in polo-shirt, long pants, black jacket and his face covered with a turban. He was handed over to Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera who would bring the local official to Manila onboard a private plane.
Ampatuan Jr. arrived in Shariff Aguak at 11:20 a.m., accompanied by his brother and ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, who turned him over to Dureza.
Ampatuan Jr. was hugged by family members before boarding a helicopter with Dureza for General Santos City.
In Manila, Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said Ampatuan Jr. would be flown to Manila for inquest proceedings.
Four policemen will also be flown to Manila from Cotabato City to stand as accused in the killings, Puno said.
Inquest proceedings and custody of all the accused will be held at Camp Crame, said Puno.
Puno identified these policemen as Senior Superintendent Abusana Maguid, the acting provincial director of Maguindanao police; Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay, chief of police of Shariff Aguak; Senior Police Officer 2 Baccal, and Inspector Judingan.
Puno also announced that the National Police Commission passed a resolution removing supervisory powers of the local government in Mindanao over police personnel in the area.
All members of the Ampatuan police are also the subject of investigation.
Earlier in the day, Philippine National Police Chief Jesus Verzosa said on radio that several gunmen were arrested.
He identified the suspects as militiamen under the control of Ampatuan Jr.
The massacre occurred after about 100 Ampatuan gunmen allegedly abducted a six-vehicle convoy of aides and relatives of Mangudadatu.
They were shot at close range, some with their hands tied behind their backs, and dumped or buried in shallow graves on a remote farming road close to a town bearing the Ampatuan name.
Fifty-seven bodies have been recovered so far, and police are still searching for more potential victims.
Ampatuan Sr. had been grooming his son, currently a local mayor, to take over as governor of Maguindanao.
The victims' relatives alleged the Ampatuans organized the murders so that Mangudadatu would not run for that post.
Thursday's actions by the police were the first arrests in relation to the massacre.