Ampatuans convicted in massacre case head to Court of Appeals

Robie de Guzman   •   January 3, 2020   •   876

Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Ampatuan clan who were found guilty of planning and executing the gruesome 2009 massacre in Maguindanao are heading to the Court of Appeals (CA) to contest their convictions.

In a notice served to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 on Thursday, Brothers Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan said they will take the case to the appellate court, and asked the lower court to forward all of the case records to the CA for review and proceedings.

Their relatives Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Sr. and his sons Datu Anwar Jr and Anwar Sajid have filed separate motions for reconsiderations before the Quezon City court, urging Judge Solis-Reyes to review the decision due to the alleged loopholes in the testimony of some witnesses.

On December 19, Judge Solis-Reyes handed down a guilty verdict to some members of the political Ampatuan clan for their involvement in the murder of 57 people, including members of the media.

Originally, there were 58 victims in the massacre but the 58th person, photographer Reynaldo Momay of the local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after his body was not found in the scene.

The ambush happened when 32 members of the media were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

Six of the victims were not part of the Mangudadatu supporters and the media convoy.

The Ampatuan massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in a separate motion, Zaldy Ampatuan asked the QC court to allow his transfer to the infirmary of the New Bilibid Prison “to receive therapy, rehabilitation and medication prescribed by his doctors, and so as not to unduly put his health in jeopardy.

His lawyers said the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government have suffered three strokes in two months, and has hypertension, diabetes and chronic atrial fibrillation.

Zaldy Ampatuan had been confined to a hospital in Makati from October to December. He was ordered by the court to return to his detention facility a day before the Ampatuan case promulgation.

Mangudadatu, on the other hand, said he is not surprised by the legal moves that the Ampatuans are employing following the promulgation.

“Expected namin yan pero kung magkaroon man ng final conviction kumbaga dapat sa panahon na yan may bitay na para hindi na tularan itong ganitong klaseng gawain,” he said.

He also expressed confidence that evidence against the Ampatuans are airtight and that the appellate court will not grant their appeals. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DOJ, NBI: Missing ex-CA justice Pizarro found dead in Tarlac

Robie de Guzman   •   December 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have confirmed that the body found in Tarlac in October was of former Court of Appeals Justice Normandie Pizarro, who was reported missing in the same month.

The DOJ said the confirmation was based on the results of a DNA test conducted by NBI’s Forensic Chemistry Division on a then-unknown cadaver found in Barangay Cristo Rey in Capas, Tarlac.

Pizarro was last seen alive on October 23. His abandoned car was found in San Simon, Pampanga in the afternoon of the same day with traces of dried liquid inside, later confirmed to be blood by the local police.

The DOJ said the NBI is focusing on four persons of interest and that one of them “is willing to divulge what he knows.”

“The NBI is looking at all possible angles, and Justice Pizarro’s  previous work in the Court of Appeals is surely one of them,” the justice department said.

Pizarro, who retired in 2018, was a controversial magistrate.

He junked the murder case against former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, who was accused of killing environmentalist and radio host Dr. Gerry Ortega.

Pizarro also acquitted Janet Napoles in her illegal detention case in 2017.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta has extended his sympathies to Pizarro’s family and called on law enforcement agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Duterte names new CA Presiding Justice

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Remedios Austria Salazar-Fernando as the appellate court’s new head, Malacañang announced.

“The Palace confirms that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has signed the appointment of Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Remedios Austria Salazar-Fernando as CA Presiding Justice on November 24, 2020,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We are confident that Presiding Justice Fernando would serve the CA with the same judicial excellence, dedication and integrity she demonstrated in her years of service at the CA,” he added.

Prior to her appointment, Salazar-Fernando has been serving as CA’s acting presiding justice following the retirement of then-presiding justice Romeo Barza in 2019.

The Supreme Court said Salazar-Fernando was sworn in Wednesday by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.

Justice Salazar-Fernando has a psychology degree from the College of the Holy Spirit. She earned her law degree at the Ateneo de Manila University. 

She began her career as a law clerk at the Supreme Court in 1978 and became a Municipal Trial Court (MTC) judge of Sta. Rita, Pampanga and acting MTC judge of Lubao in 1984.

She also served the government in various capacities as chairperson of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, assistant secretary of the Land Transportation Office, and head of the Commission on Elections.

She was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1999.

Fight is not yet over for kin of Ampatuan massacre victims

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The fight continues. After eleven years since the Ampatuan Massacre, and a year after the verdict, the victims’ kin continues to fight for justice.

Forty-three individuals were found guilty, including five members of the Ampatuan family.

Mary Grace Morales, who lost her husband and a brother, expressed her dismay, saying that there are suspects that are still at large. Morales lamented several of the accused were able to bail out.

Iyong mga convicted na mga Ampatuan ay nag-file pa ng bail sa higher court so paano po nila nasasabi na tapos na ang kaso (Several of the convicted Ampatuans filed a bail in the higher court, how can they say that the case is over)?” she said.

Atty. Nena Santos, one of the lawyers for the victims, said there are still 76 first wave suspects still at large.

She also said they already filed an appeal to increase the civil damages to be received by the victims but the Supreme Court still has no final decision on the matter.

Meanwhile, Reynafe Momay-Castillo, the daughter of Photojournalist Reynaldo Momay, still insists that her father is among the victims of the massacre. The court ruled out his father as one of the victims since his body was not found.

“I can only wish one day that 57 will be up by one since it matters more to me than before. Let us remember that the 58th victim was my father and that the victim is Reynaldo Bebot Momay,” she said.

Atty. Santos also lamented that out of the 48-second wave of suspects, 40 were dismissed and 8 had no verdict.

Nakapagtaka ito kasi lahat ng mga hindi nag-file ng counter-affidavit natanggal pa rin sa kaso (It makes one wonder that those who did not file a counter-affidavit were also dismissed),Santos said.

The lawyers and victims of the Ampatuan Massacre still believe that the case will remain unresolved as long as there is no final decision on the pending cases. —AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

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