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DOJ indicts 8 in second set of Ampatuan massacre suspects

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DOJ indicts 8 in second set of Ampatuan massacre suspects
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.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice indicted eight more people included in the second set of suspects in the grisly Ampatuan massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 individuals, including 32 media workers, in 2009.

The department, however, dismissed charges against 40 respondents.   

Prosecutors found probable cause to charge the following for multiple murder:

•    Datu Moning Ampatuan Asim
•    Datu Harris Ampatuan Macapendeng
•    Dali Kamendan aka Kumander Boy
•    Mautin Upam
•    Rene Upam
•    Datu Diego “Digo” Mamalapat
•    Daud Kamendan aka Kumander Kuatro
•    A certain “Biton” from the Philippine National Police

In a 33-page resolution, prosecutors said there was evidence showing that six of the eight—except Rene Upam and “Biton”—attended meetings where the Ampatuans planned the carnage and participated in the shooting of the victims on November 23, 2009.

The massacre is considered the worst attack on journalists and the worst case of election-related violence in the country’s history. 

"Further, by failing or refusing to participate in the preliminary investigation of this case despite the heinous character of the offense and the opportunity given to them, the evidence against respondents Moning Ampatuan Asim, Harris Ampatuan Macapendeng, Dali Kamenda aka Kumander Boy, Mautin Upan, Rene Upam and Daud Kamendan aka Kumander Kuatro remains uncontroverted,” the resolution read. 

Prosecutors said that while “Biton” was not present during the meetings, he led his man to block the convoy of the Mangudadatus. 

Eleven years ago, relatives and supporters of then Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu as well as the media workers who had accompanied them were kidnapped and later killed. Some people who were not part of the convoy were also executed. 

Cleared 

Prosecutors, meanwhile, cleared 40 individuals mentioned in the second wave of the complaint, which include Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani Sayadi and some members of the powerful Ampatuan clan. 

The DOJ said that while they may have attended some of the supposed meetings to plan the assassination of Mangudadatu, they did not take part in the actual killings.

“To reiterate, mere presence at the scene of the crime does not automatically make one liable for it, much less presence in the place or meeting where the crime was allegedly planned. Even so, none of the complainants and their witnesses mentioned any active participation committed by these respondents; thus, a finding of a probable cause must fail,” the resolution read. 

Lawyer Nena Santos, private prosecutor in the case, expressed disappointment on the development. 

“With the resolution on the second wave, parang feeling ko hindi na natin kakampi (ang DOJ). Parang pinagbigyan lang ako sa walo, tapos inalis na ‘yung 40,” Santos said Monday in a forum organized by the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All network.

(With the resolution on the second wave, I feel like the DOJ is no longer on our side. It’s like they just granted me the eight, but cleared the 40.)

“The struggles with the DOJ are far more huge now compared to before because I used to feel the DOJ was on our side, that they supported the case. That was proven to be true during the terms of Secretaries (Leila) De Lima and (Benjamin) Caguioa. But right now, I can’t read them anymore,” she added in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Motion for reconsideration

The relatives of the victims have filed a motion for reconsideration and asked for the inhibition of the present panel of prosecutors composed of Josie Christina Dugay, Mary Jane Sytat and Jovyanne Santa Maria. 

In December 2019, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes convicted Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr., his brother Zaldy Ampatuan and 26 others guilty beyond reasonable doubt of committing 57 counts of murder. There were sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole. 

Police said 58 people were killed in the 2009 massacre but the body of the 58th victim—photojournalist Reynaldo Momay—was never found. 

Fourteen police officers and one other man were found to have acted as accessories to the crime and sentenced to up to 10 years and eight months of imprisonment. 

Meanwhile, the court acquitted 56 people including Datu Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan Sr. and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan. — Gaea Katreena Cabico with report from Kristine Joy Patag

AMPATUAN MASSACRE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE NENA SANTOS
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