Maguindanao massacre verdict: Zaldy Ampatuan, Andal Jr. found guilty of murder

Maguindanao massacre verdict: Zaldy Ampatuan, Andal Jr. found guilty of murder
Relatives and supporters of victims of the country's worst political massacre light candles during a vigil at a park in Manila on December 18, 2019, on the eve of a court verdict in the case. The alleged masterminds of the Philippines' worst political massacre will learn their fate December 19 when a Manila court issues its verdict, in a test of the justice system for a nation with a deep-seated culture of impunity.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines (Update 4, 12:20 p.m.) — More than a decade since 58 people were killed in the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 found Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan guilty. They are sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole.

The following are the principal accused who were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of committing 57 counts of murder. Police said 58 people were killed in the 2009 massacre but the body of the 58th victim was never found.

  1. Datu Andal Unsay Ampatuan Jr.
  2. Datu Anwar Sajid Ulo Ampatuan
  3. Datu Anwar Ipi Ampatuan Jr.
  4. Saudi Mokamad (PINsp)
  5. Jonathan Engid (PO1)
  6. Abedin Alamada alias Kumander Bedi
  7. Talembo "Tammy" Masukat
  8. Theng Sali alias Abdullah Hamad Abdulkahar
  9. Manny Ampatuan
  10. Nasser Esmael alias Nasrudin Esmael
  11. Datu Zaldy Ampatuan
  12. Sukarno Dicay (PCI)
  13. Abusama Mundas Maguid (PSupt)
  14. Bahnarin Kamaong (PSupt)
  15. Datu Anwar Ampatuan Sr.
  16. Tato Tampogao
  17. Mohades Ampatuan
  18. Mohamad Datumanong
  19. Misuari Ampatuan
  20. Taya Bangkulat
  21. Salik Bangkulat
  22. Thong Guiamano
  23. Sonny Pindi
  24. Armando Ambalgan
  25. Kudza Masukat Uguia
  26. Edres Kasan
  27. Zacaria Akil
  28. Samaon Andatuan

Also found guilty as accessories were more than a dozen who were police officers at the time of the massacre. 

The court sentenced the following to imprisonment of from six years to 10 years and eight months: 

  1. Michael Joy Macaraeg (PInsp)
  2. Felix Enate (PO3)
  3. Abibudin Abdulgani (PO3)
  4. Rasid Anton (PO3)
  5. Hamad Nana (PO2)
  6. Saudi Pasutan (PO2)
  7. Saudiar Ulah (PO2)
  8. Esprielito Lejarso (PO1)
  9. Narkouk Mascud (PO1)
  10. Pia Kamidon (PO1)
  11. Esmael Guialal (PO1)
  12. Arnulfo Soriano (PO1)
  13. Herich Amaba (PO1)
  14. Abdulgapor Abad (PSupt)
  15. Bong Andal

"Finally, justice has been served," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a statement to reporters. 

"We of course know that the principal accused here has been convicted but some of the accused have been acquited. This is something that the prosecution has more or less anticipated," he also said. 

"We're happy with the decision of the court. We trust that the judge has very extensively examined the evidence and we trust in her impartiality in her rendition of this very important judgment," he said as he acknowledged the "tireless effort" of government and private prosecutors in working towards the long-awaited verdict.

Bloodiest case of electoral violence

Members of the Ampatuan political clan are among the over 100 individuals who were tried for the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre, when relatives of then Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu and a convoy of 32 journalists were stopped and executed by gunmen.

Meanwhile, The court acquitted two other members of the powerful Ampatuan clan: Datu Akmad "Tato" Ampatuan Sr. and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan.

The bodies of the victims were found buried in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.

Reacting to the verdict, Human Rights Watch said it would "help provide justice to the families of the victims, and build toward greater accountability for rights abuses in the country."

HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said that advocates should use the verdict to push for political and judicial reforms to end the culture of impunity in the Philippines,

"More broadly, this verdict should prompt the country's political leaders to finally act to end state support for 'private armies' and militias that promotes the political warlordism that gave rise to the Ampatuans," he also said.

Arrest and trial

The massacre prompted then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a state of emergency in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces and in Cotabato City on November 24 to "prevent and suppress the occurrence of similar other incidents of lawless violence."

Martial law was declared in parts of Maguindanao on December 4 and lifted on December 12 as members of the Ampatuan clan, Arroyo's political allies, were taken into custody.

Andal Jr. and Zaldy are the primary accused in the case and are in government custody. Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan was allowed to post bail in 2015.

The trial, which began in January 2010, included 134 witnesses for the prosecution, with key witnesses telling the court "they heard the Ampatuans plan the killing as early as July 2009, and as late as November 19, 2009, or just four days before the massacre," according to a briefer by the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All coalition.

Prosecution witnesses also said they saw Datu Unsay (Andal Jr.) kill the victims and order his men to "hurry up" in burying the bodies, which were later found in a mass grave in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.

The defense, meanwhile, presented witnesses from the Ampatuan municipal government who testified that Datu Unsay was in a meeting at the municipal hall during the time of the massacre. Datu Unsay also testified that he was not at the massacre site when it happened.

The defense also said that no forensic evidence was presented to directly link Datu Unsay to the killings.


The case suffered delays from the sheer number of people and records involved and from procedural requirements like bail hearings for 70 of the detained suspects.

"It was only on May 30, 2017, seven years after the trial began, that Judge [Jocelyn] Solis-Reyes denied Datu Unsay's petition for bail," FMFA said in its briefer, adding Judge Solis-Reyes also had to face nine motions for her to recuse herself from the trial.

"The numerous motions for reconsideration, the time given for the defendants to find new lawyers, as well as 'delaying tactics of the defense', tied up the case during the last three years," FMFA said.

The case was submitted for decision on August 22 and a verdict was expected in November, in time for the tenth year since the massacre. Judge Solis-Reyes the Supreme Court for 30 more days, however, citing the "voluminous records" in the case.

After years of hearings, the judge had to go through 165 volumes of records on the trial, 65 volumes of stenographic notes, eight volumes of the prosecution's documentary evidence, and the testimony of 357 witnesses.

As the trial the Regional Trial Court comes to a close, the case could go on longer before the verdict becomes final and executory at the Supreme Court. — with Patricia Lourdes Viray

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 18, 2020 - 2:39pm

The Maguindanao massacre is the world’s deadliest attack on journalists, 32 of the 58 victims in the massacre were members of the press. 

March 18, 2020 - 2:39pm

Another state witness in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre survived an ambush in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao on Tuesday.

The incident came just three months after the vice mayor of the same municipality was seriously wounded in a similar attack.

Muhammad Sangki and four companions were together in a van when gunmen shot at them with assault rifles in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

The scene of the ambush is a short distance from the Maguindanao provincial hospital and the provincial police office.

The 56-year-old Sangki was one of the witnesses in the trial over the gruesome politically-motivated murder of 58 people in nearby Ampatuan town on November 23, 2009.

Sangki and his companions survived the attack unscathed.— The STAR/John Unson 


January 22, 2020 - 12:24pm

A policeman implicated in the 2009 massacre of 58 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao surrendered on Tuesday.

PO1 Ysmael Baraguir—under the new Philippine National Police rank system, the equivalent rank is patrolman—yielded to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Bangsamoro Region after 10 years in hiding.

He surrendered through the intercession of local officials and of Police Col. James Gulmatico, chief of the CIDG for the Bangsamoro region.

CIDG agents fetched Baraguir from an interior area in Pagalungan town in Maguindanao on Tuesday night.

He is now in the custody of the CIDG. —The STAR/John Unson

January 3, 2020 - 5:22pm

Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, former regional governor, appeals conviction by filing notice of appeal before Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221,  which found him guilty of 57 counts of murder in December last year.

Zaldy will directly appeal the verdict to the Court of Appeals. — via Janvic Mateo, The STAR

January 2, 2020 - 5:28pm

Former Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao Mayor Anwar Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Anwar Jr. and Anwar Sajid appeal guilty verdict in Ampatuan Massacre case, The STAR's Janvic Mateo reports.

December 19, 2019 - 2:46pm

Although the guilty verdict on the massacre is welcome, members of the National Union of Journalists in the Philipines-Baguio and Benguet say all involved in the Nov.23, 2009 killings should be “brought to the bar of justice”.

"Justice will only be fully served when all of those involved and responsible are brought to the bar of justice," they say.

"But then this is just partial justice because many of the accused were acquitted while 80 more accused remain at large," NUJP-Baguio Benguet says, noting that “still impunity continues to reign that emboldens perpetrators and masterminds of gruesome attacks against journalists and the people knowing that they can escape unscathed.” — The STAR / Artemio Dumlao


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