DOJ: Maguindanao massacre verdict out by November

Marje Pelayo   •   August 9, 2019   •   1032

FILE PHOTO: Journalism students of Bulacan State University light candles in commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre in front of Bulacan Capitol, Malolos City, Bulacan. Photo taken November 21, 2013. | PVI/Junnel Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) expects judgement to be rendered on the accused in the killing of 58 individuals in the gruesome massacre that happened in Maguindanao in November 2009.

According to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, the 10-year trial on the case was finally completed on July 17, 2019.

“The parties were given until 15 August 2019 to submit simultaneously their respective memorandum or written summation,” Guevarra said in a statement.

“After which the case shall be considered as submitted for decision, with or without the memoranda of the parties,” he added.

The DOJ then expects that a judgment will be rendered before the massacre’s 10th anniversary November 23, 2019.

“And that justice will finally be served,” the Justice Secretary said.

The judgement in November is expected to end the long wait for justice for the families of the victims of the gruesome crime.

Fifty people were killed in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, including 32 journalists, four of them from UNTV. 

Some brutally shot, others buried alive in pits, while several bodies were left lying nearby in the massacre known as the single deadliest event for journalists in history. – MNP (with details from Mai Bermudez)

Key witness in Maguindanao massacre case hurt in South Cotabato ambush

Robie de Guzman   •   June 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A witness in the Maguindanao massacre trial who is under state protection was injured in an ambush in South Cotabato on Wednesday.

Lawyer Nena Santos, who represents several families of the massacre victims, said Mohamad Sangki, his driver, and one security escort from the Department of Justice’s witness protection program (WPP) were traversing Tantangan, South Cotabato on their way to the airport when they were ambushed.

Sangki was not hit by the bullets but he sustained injuries due to the impact of the vehicle when it slammed against two cottages along the road, Santos said.

The security escort was able to return fire but the gunmen fled the scene.

“The driver is 50/50 but prognosis is bad,” she added.

Santos said they are now being treated in a hospital while authorities are pursuing the perpetrators.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will order an investigation into the shooting incident.

“Sangki is a vital witness in the second wave of prosecution for the Maguindanao massacre, and it is not far-fetched that his ambush today had something to do with the horrible case,” Guevarra said in a statement.

This is the second time that Sangki’s life was threatened after he survived an ambush try in Sharif Aguak town in Maguindanao in March.

The Maguindanao massacre, the country’s worst case of election-related violence, claimed the lives of 58 people on November 23, 2009.

Most of the victims were media personnel who joined the convoy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s wife to cover the filing of his certificate of candidacy for the governor’s position.

In December 2019, members of the Ampatuan clan were found guilty and sentenced to a maximum of 40 years of imprisonment for the murder of 57 people in Maguindanao.

Among those convicted were Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., Zaldy Ampatuan, and Datu Anwar, Sr. who are sons of the late Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. accused of masterminding the gruesome crime. –RRD (details from Correspondence Janice Ingente)

DOJ orders NBI to probe slay of suspended BuCor exec

Robie de Guzman   •   February 20, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the killing of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) legal division chief Atty. Frederic Anthony Santos.

In a directive issued on Wednesday, February 19, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered and granted authority to NBI director Dante Gierran to conduct an investigation and case build-up against those behind the murder.

Santos was shot dead on Wednesday afternoon by unidentified gunmen while waiting to pick up his child in front of a school in Muntinlupa City, just a few meters away from the gate of the New Bilibid Prison.

He died instantly after sustaining gunshot wounds to head, neck and left arm based on an autopsy conducted by authorities.

Guevarra also ordered the NBI to file appropriate charges against persons found responsible for the crime if evidence warrants.

He also directed Gierran to submit to his office reports on the progress of the subject investigation and case build-up within 30 days.

In a separate statement, the DOJ chief said that Santos’ fatal shooting is still under investigation but is “very likely” connected to the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) issue.

Santos was suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman last September 2019 in relation to the alleged misapplication of the GCTA law and other time credits to prisoners.

He was supposed to return to work in March after serving six months of suspension.

Santos was among the resource persons in a Senate Investigation into the GCTA mess.

Irregularities in the GCTA law application grabbed headlines following reports on the possible early release of former mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted for the rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and her companion, Allan Sanchez in 1993 after his sentence of 7-term Reclusion Perpetua was shortened.

The issue led to the revelations of the release of some heinous crime convicts and the anomalies in the BuCor. It also led to the dismissal of Nicanor Faeldon as BuCor chief, and President Duterte to set a deadline for the surrender of nearly 2,000 GCTA-freed convicts or be hunted down by police.

DOJ to charge Albayalde, ninja cops over 2013 drug raid in Pampanga

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 17, 2020

Former Philippine National Police chief, General Oscar Albayalde

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended the filing of charges against former Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde and 12 so-called ninja cops over the 2013 drug raid in Pampanga.

The DOJ has found probable cause to indict Albayalde and 12 others for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In a statement on Thursday (January 16), the DOJ maintained that the said personalities are in “violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for persuading, inducing or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations in connection with the official duties of the latter, and for causing any undue injury to any party, including the government.”

Albayalde, however, has been cleared of other charges, such as misappropriating confiscated drugs, falsifying public documents, and failure to prosecute police officers.

The 12 cops, on the other hand, will also be indicted for other charges including bribery, planting of evidence, as well as delay and bungling in the prosecution of drug cases.

The 12 police officers are Police Lt. Col. Rodney Raymundo Louie Juico Baloyo IV, Police Lt. Joven Bagnot De Guzman, Jr., Police Master Sgts. Jules Lacap Maniago, Donald Castro Roque, Ronald Bayas Santos, Rommel Muñoz Vital, Alcindor Mangiduyos Tinio, Eligio Dayos Valeroso, Dante Mercado Dizon; Police Staff Sgts. Dindo Singian Dizon, Gilbert Angeles De Vera, and Romeo Encarnacio Guerrero Jr.

The said officers were allegedly involved in seizing 200 kilos of illegal drugs during an anti-drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013.

In a statement, Albayalde welcomed the development and is confident that the truth will still prevail.

“I welcome this development as the chance to once and for all clear my name in the proper forum. Finally, I will have my day in court,” he said. “My conscience remains clear, and I am confident that the truth will bear me out in the end.”—AAC

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