Court of Appeals clears De Lima, fiscals of contempt raps
- Edu Punay () - April 9, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has cleared Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and DOJ prosecutors handling the Maguindanao massacre trial of indirect contempt charges for defying a court order to transfer six suspects in the case.

In a 17-page decision released last week, the CA’s 12th division affirmed an earlier ruling of the Quezon City regional trial court and dismissed a petition of principal suspect Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. seeking to cite in contempt De Lima and the DOJ prosecution panel for the continued detention of four police officers and two militiamen at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame despite an earlier order from the court for all the accused in the massacre to be transferred and detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The CA agreed with the findings of the lower court that the DOJ officials had provided a valid reason for their action.

“The reason for the continued detention of the six detainees at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame was to ensure their safety and security. And contrary to what petitioner-appellant is implying, RTC Branch 221 was duly informed of respondents-appellees’ action,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Angelita Gacutan.

Associate Justices Magdangal de Leon and Francisco Acosta concurred in this ruling.

The CA stressed that the trial court was correct in holding that De Lima and her co-respondents Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon and state prosecutors Juan Pedro Navera, Irwin Maraya, Amanda Felipe, Mary Jane Sytat and Karla Cabal were not guilty of indirect contempt as they were merely ensuring the safety of prosecution witnesses.

It held that the DOJ chief and her panel’s disobedience of the court’s order was not willful but “was for a justifiable reason,” which is the threat to the safety of the six detainees identified as Inspectors Michael Macaraeg and Rex Diongon; Police Officers 1 Rainier Ebus and Pia Kamidon; civilian volunteer organization members Esmael Kanapia and Takpan Dilon.

 “The right of the six detainees under the Constitution are of greater importance than the right of the state to prosecute,” the CA said.

AMANDA FELIPE AMPATUAN JR. ASSISTANT CHIEF STATE PROSECUTOR RICHARD ANTHONY FADULLON ASSOCIATE JUSTICE ANGELITA GACUTAN ASSOCIATE JUSTICES MAGDANGAL BUREAU OF JAIL MANAGEMENT AND PENOLOGY CAMP BAGONG DIWA CAMP CRAME COURT CUSTODIAL CENTER DE LIMA
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