CA junks 3 Maguindanao massacre suspects’ bid to turn witness

Marje Pelayo   •   July 30, 2018   •   3077

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld its order prohibiting three of the accused in the Maguindanao massacre from turning into state witnesses.

In a resolution dated July 10, the CA former special 13th division dismissed the motion for reconsideration by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to turn police inspector Rex Ariel Diongon, PO1 Rainier Ebus and Mohammad Sangki into witnesses as there were no legitimate grounds to warrant a reversal of the previous order.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 has earlier denied the same petition because the three accused have substantially the same testimonies with other state witnesses. – UNTV News and Rescue

Application for SC, Court of Appeals posts now open – JBC

Robie de Guzman   •   May 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has announced the opening of applications or recommendations for positions at the Supreme Court (SC) and the Court of Appeals (CA).

In an announcement posted on SC Public Information Office’s Twitter account, the JBC said applicants who will be selected in the process will occupy the position to be vacated by SC Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., who will retire on September 18, and former CA Presiding Justice Romeo Barza, who retired on August 2, 2019.

In its advisory, the JBC said interested applications must visit its official website, and access the online application scheduler.

After filling out the computer-generated letter of intent, they must submit it along with the documentary requirements to this JBC e-mail on the selected date and time of appointment in the online application scheduler.

The JBC emphasized that the digitized versions of the letter of intent they will submit must be “complete” and “accurate.”

“The documentary requirements should be in Portable Document Format (PDF) and e-mailed in a single file only, following the order of documents as enumerated in the Announcement posted on the JBC website,” it said.

“The date of actual receipt of the complete documentary requirements (sent through e-mail) shall be deemed as the date of filing,” it added.

The JBC further said that applicants are also required to submit two complete sets of the documentary requirements through courier service not later than 4:30 p.m. of July 7, 2020 to its office along Padre Faura Street in Manila.

It warned that applicants who will fail to comply with the requirements of online and physical submission of the documentary requirements will not be considered for nomination.

The JBC likewise announced it has set on May 28 at 10 a.m. an online public interview of candidates for the SC Associate Justice position vacated by former Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr., who compulsorily retired on May 11, 2020.

The candidates are as follows:

  • Ramon Bato Jr.
  • Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla
  • Edwin Sorongon
  • Nina Antonio-Valenzuela

The JBC said that the following are also candidates for the said judicial position, but whose previous interviews are still valid:

  • Manuel Barrios
  • Amparo Cabotaje-Tang
  • Ramon Cruz
  • Japar Dimaampao
  • Jhosep Lopez
  • Jose Midas Marquez
  • Eduardo Peralta Jr.
  • Pablito Perez
  • Rizardo Rosario

The JBC is a constitutional office that accepts, screens, and nominates appointments to the judiciary.

It will then submit a list of nominees to President Rodrigo Duterte for selection, and whoever is appointed will complete the membership in the SC composed of 15 justices.

Ampatuans convicted in massacre case head to Court of Appeals

Robie de Guzman   •   January 3, 2020

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)

PH gov’t urged to hunt down Ampatuan massacre suspects still at large

Robie de Guzman   •   December 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Human Rights Watch (HRW) group urged the Philippine government to hunt down and arrest the remaining suspects in the Ampatuan massacre case who are still at large.

In a statement issued ahead of the case promulgation on Thursday, the HRW said the suspects in the gruesome attack who still roam free puts the victims’ families and wit at grave risk.

“The families of Maguindanao victims and witnesses will be at risk so long as suspects remain free,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.

Around 197 people were accused in the massacre. Of this number, 101 were put on trial while 80 others are yet to be arrested.

Among the suspects who remain at large are 14 members of the Ampatuan clan, and 50 soldiers and policemen who were accused of planning and carrying out the massacre on November 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan are the primary accused in the case.

The alleged private army of the Ampatuans purportedly blocked and ambushed the convoy of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans – when they were on their way to file his candidacy for the 2010 elections in a local Commission on Elections office.

The incident left 58 people dead including 32 media personnel, some civilians and members of the Mangudadatu family.

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

A special court was created by the Supreme Court to handle the case, enabling the presiding judge, Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court branch 221, to hold frequent hearings.

The case has dragged on for a decade in part because of the sheer number of victims, respondents and witnesses presented both for the prosecution and defense.

With the expected release of the verdict on the case, the HRW said the government should continue to pursue all the accused.

“Regardless of the verdicts in the case, Philippine authorities need to apprehend the several dozen suspects still at large,” Robertson said.

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