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Decorated police exec arraigned in massacre case

MANILA, Philippines - Once a decorated police colonel, Supt. Abdulwahid Pedtucasan faced the court on Thursday yesterday as an accused, who pleaded not guilty to multiple murder in the Maguindanao massacre case.

Pedtucasan, wearing a yellow detainee shirt, khaki pants, slippers and a rosary on his neck, was arraigned with his hands cuffed after the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 denied his appeal to nullify his indictment.

Pedtucasan is the 76th suspect to be arraigned in the case.

There are 195 suspects charged with 57 counts of murder in connection with the massacre. A total of 96 suspects have been arrested.

According to Pedtucasan, he had repeatedly received citations and awards in his years in service before he was tagged in the massacre case.

One of these was a "Heroism Award" that he got for a "raid on criminals and lawless elements" in Cotabato City.

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Earlier, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Pedtucasan, who had questioned a July 2010 order of the court that held that there was probable cause to indict him.

The 2010 order was based on Pedtucan's admission that he deployed additional troops at the Maitumaig detachment in Datu Unsay town upon instruction of their group director Supt. Bahnarin Kamaong.

Also, Sr. Insp. Abdulgapor Abad, commanding officer of the 5th Company of the 15th Regional Mobile Group, set up the checkpoint on November 23, 2009 upon orders of Pedtucasan.

But according to Pedtucasan, these grounds, without corroborotive evidence, were insufficient to indict him.

Pedtucasan had cited that Kamaong's order to deploy additional troops, which he relayed to Abad, was part of their ordinary duties as police officers, and as such, should be treated with the presumption of regularity.

But the court ruled that these "will not change the fact that his deployment of additional troops and verbal instruction to conduct checkpoint operation had lent support and somehow facilitated the victims' abduction where they were brought to a hilly portion of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, and subsequently killed."

However, during his arraignment, Pedtucasan maintained his innocence.

His lawyer, Ben Malcontento, said what the police colonel did was " SOP" or standard operating procedure and that the augmentation he ordered was positioned at an area after the checkpoint where the convoy of the victims was blocked.

"The augmentation he sent was nine to 10 people. How can you stop 300 armed men (with that)?" Malcontento said, noting there was nothing his client could have done to save those who were taken.


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