DOJ: Case vs Zaldy Ampatuan may wrap up early 2019

DOJ: Case vs Zaldy Ampatuan may wrap up early 2019
Relatives of a victim of the Maguindanao massacre light candles at a shrine in Barangay Masalay in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao yesterday, the 8th anniversary of the attack which killed 58 persons, including 32 media workers/
John Unson

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:36 p.m.) — The case against one of the suspected masterminds of the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre that left 58—including 32 media workers—dead will wrap up by early next year, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday.

He said "four or five accused will still present defense evidence. [It will be] submitted for decision by early next year."

Earlier on Wednesday, the STAR reported that the case against former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan has been submitted for resolution.

The case is being heard in the sala of Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.

Ampatuan is among the 197 suspects charged over the massacre. Other members of the Ampatuan clan clan—including its patriarch Andal Sr., who died in 2015—were charged with 58 counts of murder.

Ampatuan argued that he was not at the scene of the crime when the massacre happened and had sought bail before the trial court, saying that Reyes’ ruling focused on his supposed participation in the meetings that led to the grim massacre.

He argued that he was able to establish that he was not at the scene of the crime when the massacre happened.

His plea for temporary liberty was denied both at the trial court level, and at the Court of Appeals.

Furlough granted

On Tuesday night, Ampatuan attended the wedding of his daughter at Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City. The Bureau of Jail Managament and Penology confirmed that Ampatuan was given a three-hour furlough.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in a message to reporters, said that state prosecutors "vigorously opposed" the younger Ampatuan's plea for furlough "but the court granted the motion for humanitarian reasons."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which has been marking each month since the massacre, raised concerns on the court’s decision to allow the former regional governer to leave detention.

The NUJP also lamented that it has been nearly nine years since the killings and there have been no convictions yet. Sajid Ampatuan, among the accused, was granted bail in 2017.

“That and now this, we feel, gives us the victims’ families more than enough cause to worry about whether we can truly expect justice for this most grievous of crimes,” NUJP said.

The NUJP stressed that the former governor is accused of a heinous crime that was criticized across the globe.

The journalists’ group also pointed out that people charged with lesser offenses would have never been given the “privilege” granted to the younger Ampatuan.

“What made him an exception to the rule?" the NUJP also said. — Kristine Joy Patag with a report from Edu Punay

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