Image:  Philippines massacre site
Aaron Favila  /  AP
A man digs beside a backhoe as they recover a vehicle that was dumped together with massacre victims along a hillside grave in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines on Wednesday Nov. 25.
updated 11/26/2009 12:26:55 AM ET 2009-11-26T05:26:55

A scion of a powerful clan suspected in the massacre of 57 people in an election caravan in the southern Philippines turned himself in Wednesday amid mounting pressure on the government to crack down on lawlessness and warlords.

The dead from Monday's massacre include the wife, family and dozens of journalists and supporters of a gubernatorial candidate who wanted to challenge the rival Ampatuan clan, which has ruled Maguindanao province unopposed for years.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., a town mayor who allegedly stopped the convoy with dozens of police and pro-government militiamen, surrendered to presidential adviser Jesus Dureza in the provincial capital of Shariff Aguak, said military commander Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer.

He boarded a military helicopter to a nearby city, from where he will be flown to the capital, Manila, for investigation, Ferrer said.

"The family voluntarily surrendered him and they agreed that he will be investigated," he said.

Ampatuan's family denied the allegations of his involvement in the slayings.

Troops deployed
The military deployed tanks and truckloads of troops throughout the province under a state of emergency to hunt down the attackers and prevent retaliatory violence from the victims' clan.

Police and soldiers on Wednesday found 11 more bodies at the site of the attack, bringing the death toll to 57. Six of the bodies were discovered in a large pit buried alongside three vehicles, and five were found in a mass grave a few miles off the main highway.

The vehicles — a sedan and two vans — were crushed by a large backhoe that ran over and buried them, investigator Jose Garcia said.

Ampatuan's surrender followed days of negotiations between his family and Dureza, apparently in a bid to prevent hostilities between the clan's followers and government forces.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said he had warned the Ampatuan family they risked a military attack unless they turned over Ampatuan Jr. by midday Thursday.

Ferrer said the area around the provincial capital was tense after troops disarmed about 350 pro-government militiamen loyal to the Ampatuans. The militia is meant to act as an auxiliary force to the military and police in fighting rebels and criminals but often serve as a politician's private army.

The clan, which has ruled the province since 2001, helped President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies win the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections by delivering crucial votes.

Arroyo came under intense pressure at home and abroad to seek justice for the victims of the massacre, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and media and human rights watchdogs voicing their concern over the scale of the killings.

The vice Mayor of Buluan township, Ismael Mangudadatu, after receiving death threats, sent his wife and relatives to submit his candidacy Monday when the convoy, including at least 18 journalists, was ambushed.

Mangudadatu said four people whom he refused to identify told him Ampatuan Jr. was seen with the gunmen.

Five police officers, including one provincial police chief, were relieved of duty and will be brought to Manila to face the investigation together with Ampatuan Jr., Ferrer said.

Arroyo vowed justice for the victims and declared a national day of mourning.

"This is a supreme act of inhumanity that is a blight on our nation," she said in a statement. "The perpetrators will not escape justice. The law will haunt them until they are caught."

Few think she will be able to restore the rule of law in the impoverished region that has been outside the central government's reach for generations, and where warlords backed by private armies go by their own rules. Maguindanao's acting governor is Sajid Ampatuan, another son of former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., the clan's patriarch.

Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the administration's relationship with the family would hinder an impartial investigation. Arroyo's ruling party, in an emergency meeting late Wednesday, expelled Ampatuan Sr. and his two sons.

Among the 18 dead journalists — the highest number of reporters killed in a single attack anywhere in the world — was Alejandro "Bong" Reblando, 53, a former Associated Press stringer. He was the most senior in the group of reporters. Reblando, who was based in General Santos City, was a staffer for the Manila Bulletin daily newspaper.

He covered the southern Philippines for the AP from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, reporting on the Muslim separatist insurgency as well as local politics.

He is survived by his wife and seven children.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Massacre in the Philippines

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  1. Andal Ampatuan Jr., right, a local mayor in Maguindanao province, eats behind a detention cell at the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila November 26, 2009. Philippine police filed murder charges against the main suspect in the massacre of 57 people in the south of the country this week as authorities moved to dismantle his clan's control over the region. Ampatuan Jr, a local mayor in Maguindanao province, came face to face with Esmael Mangudadatu, husband of one of the women murdered, who filed multiple murder complaints before state prosecutors in southern General Santos City. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation escort Andal Ampatuan Jr., center, after he surrendered in Ampatuan in southern Philippines, upon his arrival at the Villamor air base in Pasay city, metro Manila. (Romeo Ranoco / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Filipino Muslims carry the remains of a victim of a pre-elections crime during burial rites in Buluan town of Maguindanao province. (Rolex Dela Pena / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Filipino protesters hold placards during a protest demonstration in Manila, Philippines. Civil society groups expressed outrage over the massacre of 57 people. (Alanah M. Torralba / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Police and army personnel cover their noses as they view and take photos of recovered bodies along a hillside grave in Ampatuan municipality, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines, on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

    President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo placed two southern provinces under a state of emergency, giving security forces free hand to pursue gunmen who killed at least 46 people in one of the country's worst election massacres. Dozens of gunmen abducted a group of journalists, supporters and relatives of a gubernatorial candidate as they traveled through Amputuan on Monday.

    Editor's warning: there are scenes of death and violence in this report. (Aaron Favila / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Relatives wait as police recover victims' bodies along a hillside grave in Ampatuan municipality, Maguindanao province. (Aaron Favila / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Police officers look on as a backhoe clears an area where bodies were dumped along a hillside in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. (Aaron Favila / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A police officer uses banana leaves to cover bodies that they recovered from a hillside grave in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. (Aaron Favila / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A policeman investigates the massacre. Political rivals are suspected of being behind the kidnap, mutilation, rape and murder of the victims. (Jeoffrey Maitem / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A woman is led away from the body of her husband, a local reporter who was among the victims of the massacre. (Erik De Castro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A police investigator examines victims at the scene of the massacre. (Erik De Castro / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Friends and relatives grieve at the scene of the tragedy Monday in Ampatuan. (Jeoffrey Maitem / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Photographers clench fists as they offer candles for the victims of election-related violence in Maguindanao province, during a protest outside the Philippine National headquarters in Manila condemning the killings. (Cheryl Ravelo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Protesters hold lighted candles while displaying placards during a rally Tuesday at Manila's Quezon city to condemn the massacre. (Bullit Marquez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Wreckage of a vehicle believed to be used in transporting victims of a pre-election crime is dug up along a hillside in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines, on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Philippine security forces dug up three vehicles and six more bodies. (Rolex Dela Pena / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Soldiers inspect a vehicle at a military checkpoint in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines. (Aaron Favila / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Families, friends, students and sympathizers light candles for those who died during a politically motivated massacre in nearby Ampatuan town in the southern city of Koronadal, Philippines. The Ampatuan clan are being blamed for the kidnap, mutilation, rape and murder of the victims. (Jeoffrey Maitem / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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