2 more suspects in Maguindanao massacre arraigned

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Two more accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, including a former town councilor, pleaded not guilty on Monday to 57 counts of murder in a Quezon City court.

Manny Upam Ampatuan, former Sangguniang Bayan member of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town and nephew of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., and Maot Bangkulat, aka Benjie Dagindingan, were arraigned in Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 presided over by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.

Based on court records, the two were the 91st and 92nd persons arraigned in the case. They join 193 other accused in the Nov. 23, 2009, killing of 57 persons, including 32 media workers, in Sitio (settlement) Masalay, Barangay (village) Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

Of the 195 accused, 105 have been arrested, including former Sultan sa Borongis Vice Mayor Sukarno Badal who recently turned state’s evidence.

At Monday’s arraignment, Ampatuan was assisted by lawyer Z19 Javier while Bangkulat was represented by lawyer Laguindab Marohombsar of the Public Attorney’s Office for the purpose of the proceedings where both denied involvement in the massacre.

Bangkulat was arrested on April 8 by agents of the ARMM-based Regional Intelligence Office 15 of the Philippine National Police in Datu Montawal town, Maguindanao.

Ampatuan, who was already in detention, was ordered arraigned by Reyes last week after she denied his request for a reinvestigation and determination of probable cause.

Reyes dismissed Ampatuan’s motion for lack of merit. She said a reinvestigation was baseless since the arguments raised by Ampatuan were matters that must be presented at the trial.

In his motion, Ampatuan had argued that there was no evidence to show his participation in the massacre. A witness, however, has claimed that he was among the men who brought the victims to the massacre site. This testimony was raised by the prosecution to oppose the motion.

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