MANILA, Philippines—The Court of Appeals has dismissed the petition of an Ampatuan clan member to have the murder charges against him in the Maguindanao massacre case quashed, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Lead Prosecutor Peter Medalle informed Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes during the hearing of the case on Wednesday morning that the appellate court had junked the motion for reconsideration of former Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan, paving the way for his arraignment.
The prosecution also asked Judge Reyes to arraign former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan after the Supreme Court dismissed his petition to quash the charges against him.
“This Court resolves to deny the motion for reconsideration … filed by Datu Anwar Ampatuan as no new and substantial matters are raised to warrant a reversal of our assailed decision,” said the resolution penned by Associate Justice Angelita A. Gacutan of the former 16th Division of the Court of Appeals.
“The arguments advanced by petitioner in support of his motion have been considered and passed upon by this Court. To require us to discuss again the ratio decidendi of our decision would be to belabor the issued ad infinitum,” the resolution added.
Associate Justices Vicente Veloso and Francisco Acosta concurred with Gacutan’s three-page resolution, which was released on June 28.
Anwar had challenged before the appellate court the resolution of then Justice Secretary Alberto Agra finding probable cause to indict him in the Nov. 23, 2009, massacre in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao ,which left 57 people dead, many of them journalists. The body of the reported 58th victim, journalist Reynaldo Momay, was never found but his personal effects were.
But in August last year, the tribunal—with Gacutan writing the ruling—dismissed Anwar’s petition, saying Agra did not commit any grave abuse of discretion. The respondent then filed a motion for reconsideration.
Anwar’s lawyer, Paris Real, said Wednesday that he would elevate the matter to the Supreme Court.
“We reserve the right to elevate it to the higher tribunal,” Real told Judge Reyes. “(Anwar Ampatuan) had nothing to do with the massacre because he was not at the crime scene.”
Real said that at the time of the massacre his client was busy attending to matters related to his job as Shariff Aguak mayor.
But just last week, prosecution star witness Lakmodin Saliao told the court that Anwar, a son of clan patriarch Andal Amptuan Sr., hid his brother Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., a primary suspect, in the mountains of Datu Hofer town in Maguindanao hours after the killings.
“(They were in Datu Hofer) to hide Unsay from the military,” Saliao said at the hearing held in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig.
Saliao reiterated his previous testimony given to the court in September 2010 that he was with Andal Sr. on the day of the massacre.
He said he was in constant contact with Anwar especially after Andal Sr. talked to Anwar through his cellular phone and told him to meet Andal Jr. and flee from the massacre site.
“We were always talking with each other because we were monitoring their whereabouts in Datu Hofer,” Saliao said.
Saliao also affirmed his previous testimony that he was present when the Ampatuans and their supporters allegedly met on the night of Nov. 17, 2009, at the clan’s farm in Barangay (village) Bagong in Shariff Aguak to plan the massacre.
“That is why we’re all here—to plan how to stop (then Buluan Mayor Esmael) Toto Mangudadatu from filing his CoC [certificate of candidacy],” Saliao had quoted the clan patriarch as saying.
It was then that Andal Jr. supposedly replied: “That is easy father. Kill them all if they come here.”
Saliao said Zaldy Amptuan then told those present: “If that is what we’re talking about, we should plan it carefully so that we won’t be discovered.”
“That is why we are here. It is shameful for the Ampatuan clan to have someone challenge them,” Anwar allegedly said.