MANILA, Philippines—A Quezon City court has denied the request of a member of the Ampatuan clan who is among the accused in the Maguindanao massacre trial to be allowed to attend his daughter’s graduation on Saturday.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s Branch 221 said that while she sympathized with the desire of Akmad Ampatuan Sr. to be with his daughter at her graduation, the occasion was not among the grounds specified in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s manual that would have allowed him to leave his place of detention at the Quezon City Jail annex in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.
Ampatuan Sr., a nephew and son-in-law of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and a former mayor of Mamasapano town, had asked the judge to permit him “as a father and human being” to be at his daughter Sharmaine Reham’s July 6 graduation at the Philippine International Convention Center.
He is among 195 accused of multiple murder for November 23, 2009 slaughter of 58 persons, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao Province which members of the clan had ruled and dominated politically since the mid-1980s.
The prosecution panel opposed the request, describing Ampatuan as a flight risk and arguing that his rights as a detention prisoner, particularly his personal freedom, were “necessarily restrained.” It also cited a previous ruling by the court denying a similar request by Zaldy Ampatuan, a former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Akmad’s brother-in-law had asked the court in March to be allowed to witness his son’s high school graduation from a Cotabato City school. But Reyes ruled that attending a graduation was not among specific circumstances in the BJMP manual that would justify the movement and transfer of a detainee.
In her latest order, Reyes said, “While the court fully understands accused-movant’s (Ampatuan’s) desire, being a good father, to be with his daughter in her ‘once in a lifetime activity,’ however, it will find it hard to grant the relief being prayed for considering that aside from inherent limitations, Section 8 Rule 27 of the 2007 Revised BJMP Manual has laid down instances when prisoners may be moved or transferred outside the jail.”
She concluded, “The purpose of accused-movant’s travel outside of the detention facility not being one of them, the court is left without any recourse except to deny the motion.”