MANILA, Philippines—Saying it had no merit, a Quezon City judge has thrown out a motion by former Mayor Anwar Ampatuan Sr of Shariff Aguak to have his name stricken off the list of accused in the Maguindanao massacre case.
In a ruling issued Thursday, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Regional Trial Court’s Branch 221 granted instead state prosecutors’ motion to have Anwar Ampatuan Sr. be arraigned on 58 counts of murder.
The judge noted in her ruling that she had already declared a finding of probable cause against the 196 accused in previous rulings.
“There being no additional document submitted by accused to refute the finding of probable cause not only by the panel of investigating prosecutors as well as this court, it is of the view that no cogent reason exists to reverse such finding,” Reyes said.
She noted that other issues raised in the accused’s pleading were matters of evidence better appreciated in a full-blown trial.
Anwar Ampatuan had asked for the dismissal of the 58 counts of murder against him, claiming there was no basis to indict him since there was no evidence to show he had taken part in conspiring to commit the Nov. 23, 2009 masscre of 58 people in Maguindanao province, which was then controlled by members of the influential Ampatuan clan.
The victims were members of the family of Maguindanao Gov. Esmail Mangudadatu, who had then just announced his candidacy for governor in the 2010 elections, lawyers and local journalists covering the filing of his official certificate of candidacy. The motorcade was waylaid by armed men said to be taking orders from then Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, Andal Jr., who was also running for governor.
Anwar Ampatuan argued that it was physically impossible for him to be at Barangay Matagabon where the Mangudadatu convoy was flagged down on the morning of the carnage.
The prosecutors argued it was premature for the accused to seek his exclusion from the case based on the argument that the prosecution did not present evidence to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The prosecution added that the issue of whether the prosecutors committed grave abuse of discretion in finding probable cause against the accused was already settled by the Court of Appeals in an Aug. 2011 order denying his petition for certiorari.
Reyes also set Anwar Ampatuan’s arraignment on June 26 at the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan in Taguig City. Also set to be arraigned that day are Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan and Datu Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan Sr.