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Court frees Andal Sr.'s first cousin

MANILA, Philippines - A Pasig City court yesterday ordered the immediate release of Andal Ampatuan Sr.’s cousin, saying the detention of Datukan Malang Salibo was illegal and without basis.

Judge Briccio Ygaa of Pasig Regional Trial Court branch 153 said Salibo’s petition for habeas corpus was “meritorious” based on documents showing that he was in Saudi Arabia 15 days before the Nov. 23 massacre up to Dec. 20, 2009 to join a pilgrimage.

Ygaa added that Salibo was able to prove that he was not Butukan S. Malang – who was listed as one of the 197 accused in the massacre of 57 people – as claimed by those who detained him at the Datu Hofer Maguindanao police station.

“Evidence established during the hearing show that (Salibo) was not judicially charged. The joint DOJ (Department of Justice) resolution, information and amended information in the criminal cases pending before RTC Branch 221 of Quezon City in connection with the Maguindanao massacre do not contain the name Datukan Malang Salibo. Neither does warrant of arrest and alias warrant of arrest issued thereafter,” Ygaa said in his 10-page ruling.

Members of the Ampatuan clan are accused of masterminding the carnage, where the wife and relatives of now Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu were killed together with 32 journalists.

Their case is being tried by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of RTC Branch 221 of Quezon City. 

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Branch 153’s hearing, on the other hand, stemmed from the directive of the Court of Appeals Sixth Division to conduct court hearings on Salibo’s petition.

Habeas corpus is a special court order that can be invoked by people who feel they are illegally arrested or detained.

Salibo claimed he was detained on Aug. 3, 2010 after personally reporting at the Datu Hofer police station to tell authorities that his picture was mistakenly used to identify Malang in the suspects’ list. 

He was transferred to Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa Taguig City based on Reyes’ commitment order dated Aug. 10, 2010.

Salibo said that after showing his clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and identification card from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, policemen assured him that he has nothing to worry about. He also presented his passport, airline tickets, ID and pictures from the pilgrimage.

“After sometime, however, probably because of the P250,000 reward for the arrest of every accused in connection with the Maguindanao massacre, the police suddenly made a volte force and detained... Salibo at the Datu Hofer police station without legal grounds,” lawyer Paris Real said in their petition.

The lawyers also said that the police accused their client of using Datukan Malang Salibo as alias of Malang.

Ygaa later ruled that they are “not one and the same person.” 

Real told The STAR that his client is “contemplating” on filing charges against the Maguindanao policemen who detained him. He added that they will file administrative, contempt of court, and continuous illegal detention charges against jail officers should they refuse to release Salibo. – With Edu Punay, Reinir Padua 

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