MANILA, Philippines — A Quezon City court has disallowed former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan’s petition to take a “leave from imprisonment” to attend his eldest son’s graduation in Cotabato City.
Quezon City regional trial court branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes ruled in her March 22 order that a graduation did not qualify as an emergency and that allowing him time away from detention at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City would set a precedent among his co-accused.
The former ARMM governor is one of 195 accused in the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre where 58 people, including 32 media workers and several female relatives of incumbent Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangudadatu, were slaughtered at Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, in Ampatuan town.
Ampatuan had requested the court to be allowed to travel on March 24 to attend the commencement exercises of his son Prince Sufri Norrabie at the Albert Einstein School in Cotabato City. His 19-year-old son, he said, was awarded the diamond award for leadership as president of the central student government. He had reasoned out that his incarceration did not make him stop being a good father to his family.
Reyes, in her three page order, said, “The motion is bereft of merit. There is no gainsaying that accused-movant (Ampatuan), just like all other accused, enjoys the constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise. However being a detention prisoner, aside from inherent limitations, imposed upon accused-movant, the latter may be brought out of jail only under certain circumstances.”
She further said that while the court understood Ampatuan’s wish as a father to attend his eldest son’s graduation, “granting the relief being prayed for in his motion might set a precedent for future requests by other accused.”