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Until they were charged with the murder of 58 persons on Nov. 23, 2009, the Ampatuans lived in mansions, traveled with a retinue of armed escorts in a convoy of black SUVs, flew business class, and in the first days of their detention, enjoyed catered meals.

From 2002 to 2008, COA reports had scored huge expenses for what could have been identical projects in Maguindanao and ARMM, under the Ampatuans. The reports painted a sorry picture of how one powerful clan could have dipped into public coffers, willfully and wantonly, as if these were its personal purse.

On Nov. 23, 2009, 58 persons were killed in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province. The victims included 32 journalists and media workers, two lawyers, six motorists passing the same route, and the wife and sisters of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, at that time the vice-mayor of Buluan town in Maguindanao.

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