Maguindanao massacre victims’ lawyer expects a guilty verdict

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 6, 2019   •   317

Atty. Nena Santos

The legal counsel of the Maguindanao massacre victims expects that the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 which will be released not later than December 22, will give out a guilty verdict.

Atty. Nena Santos said even if some of the witnesses recanted their statements, it will not affect the verdict of the court.

“Ang nag-recant na mga witnesses (The witnesses who recanted [their statements] are just collaborating witnesses. The main witnesses did not recant so we believe that it will not affect the outcome of the case,” she said.

Over a hundred accused in the Maguindanao massacre, which include several members of the Ampatuan family, are waiting for the court’s decision before the end of the year.

The Quezon City RTC was given 90 days in order to come up with a verdict for a case already submitted for resolution. The 90-day period will lapse on November 22.

However, Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes requested a 30-day extension. —AAC (with reports from Mai Bermudez)

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.

Families of slain UNTV News Crew in Ampatuan Massacre hope to receive justice 10 years after

Maris Federez   •   December 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — After ten years of waiting and fighting, the families of the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre are hoping that they will finally get justice on what had become of their loved ones.

Read: Malacañang hopes justice for Ampatuan massacre victims on Dec. 19

Erlyn Umpad, the widow of McDelbert “Mac-Mac” Arriola, the UNTV cameraman who was among those killed in that fateful day dubbed as the worst election-related violence in the world, said the suffering she had gone thru is immeasurable.

“Ibigay nila sa’min yung nararapat sa amin kasi hindi lang isang tao yung pinatay nila,” she said.

Erlyn recalled that she just had given birth to their son, Japed who is now 10 years old, when the massacre took place.

She said the most painful and difficult thing to do is to explain to her child what happened to his father.

“Nung anim na taon, nagsisimula na siyang magtanong. Bakit lagi akong pupunta (sa Maynila), nakikita daw sa TV. Sabi ko, ‘hustisya ‘yan para sa tatay mo na namatay’. ‘Bakit namatay? Bakit hindi niyo dinala sa ospital? Di ba kapag nabaril, may sugat, dadalhin sa ospital?’ Bakit hindi daw dinala. ‘Yung hindi ko kayang ipaliwanag kasi,” she lamented.

Erlyn hopes that she will finally get the justice her family deserves when the case is promulgated on Thursday (Dec. 19).

“Sana matapos na bukas, mahatulan na talaga para — ayoko na nung dadating pa ‘yung taon na kumbaga ‘Mama, bakit wala pa ring justice?’ Parang baka siya pa ang makipaglaban, ‘yung sasama pa siya para hihingi ng hustisya. Ayokong mangyari ‘yun,” she said.

Erlyn said her fight now is not just about her husband, Mac-Mac, but also about her son who also wants to follow the footsteps of his father as a cameraman.

“Sana ibigay nila ‘yung katarungan kasi ‘yung anak ko ayoko na talagang malaman pa niya na yung tao pala pwede lang palang parang hayop na pwedeng ilibing lang pag namatay, babarilin na lang ng wala namang kasalanan dahil lang sa pulitika na pinag-aanuhan dito sa gobyerno,” she added.

Editha Tiamzon, wife of UNTV driver Daniel Tiamzon who was also killed in the massacre also hopes for justice for her husband.

She said that although she fears for the worst, she remains to have a positive outlook and that justice will side with them.

“Syempre nine-nerbyos ka. Iniisip mo anong mangyayari bukas, pero inaasahan namin na merong conviction,” Editha said.

Meanwhile, Atty. Harry Roque, the counsel for the families of the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre, said they hope for a “guilty” verdict on the accused.

This, he said, will prove that the judicial system is still at work, albeit turtle-paced turn of the wheel of justice.

“Sistemang bulok na umaabot sampung taon bago magkaroon ng desisyon. Ganun pa man, nakaantay naman ng sampung taon. Inaasahan naman namin na magkakaroon na ng katarungan,” he said.

Should justice chose not to side with them, Roque said he will no longer have any reason to stay in his profession and continue being a lawyer.

“Siguro, magreresign na ‘ko bilang abogado kung walang mako-convict diyan. Useless. Useless maging abogado kung ni-isa walang mako-convict diyan,” he warned.

Still, Roque said that some of the accused will be convicted, although some had posted bail and were freed.

Among them is Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan who was released in 2015 after posting bail of Php 11.6-Million.

The 16 police officers implicated in the killing were also released. — (from the report of Harlene Delgado) /mbmf

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