MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 2) Eight years after the attack on the Light Rail Transit station in Manila, a local court convicted three alleged members of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah for the explosion that killed 11 people.
Mukhlis Hadji Yunos, alias Saifulla Yunos Muklis; Mohamad Amir alias Abdul Fatak Paute; and Zainal Paks alias Mamasao Naga were found guilty of ?multiple murder with multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder? and were sentenced to imprisonment of reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole under Republic Act 9346 (An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty).
Branch 29 Judge Cielito Mendaro-Grulla of the Manila regional trial court also ordered each of the convicts to pay P50,000 civil indemnity, P50,000 moral damages and P25, 000 as temperate damages to the families of fatalities Krisella Anne Acusin, Valentino Calaquian, Astrid Eunice Canete, Rowena Chua, Romeo De Vera, Edmund Domondon, Gerardo Lim, Lynnete Narvaez, Jovelyn Ramos, Renato Sebastian, and Rowena Torlao.
Yunos and his two comrades bombed the LRT Blumentritt station on Dec. 30, 2000, in one of five explosions that hit Metro Manila on the national holiday commemorating the 104th death anniversary of National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
Court records show that aside from the 11 fatalities, 19 others were wounded in the LRT blast.
"Wherefore, in view of all the foregoing, we find the three accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the complex crime of multiple murder with multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder, hence each of them is sentenced to suffer the penalty prescribed for the most serious crime which is reclusion perpetua pursuant to RA 9346," the court said.
The court, in its ruling, relied mainly on the testimony of witness Anna Marie Velasquez, one of the victims, who identified Yunos as the one she saw on Dec. 30, 2000 at the LRT-Tayuman station. She said she saw Yunos enter an LRT coach carrying a blue/black traveling bag and that he was no longer carrying it when he got off.
She said Yunos was even telling the other passengers, "Padaan, bababa na ako, bumaba na kayo [Please let me pass, I?m going down, you should go down, too]."
Velasquez was shown several pictures but said she was not interested in them because she wanted to see Yunos in person.
Velasquez identified Yunos from a police line-up and claimed that he glared at her when she pointed to him.
"Suffice it to say that Anna Marie Velasquez was a victim herself, mother to the two other minor victims; Danna Moira Velasquez, (4), Marianne Velasquez (2) and her husband Donald, hence, her testimony should normally be accepted since such witness would usually strive to remember the faces of the assailants. Relationship with a victim would deter a witness from indiscriminately implicating anybody to the crime as the natural and usual interest would be to identify the malefactor and secure his conviction to obtain true justice," the court said.
The court added that it was clear that the three conspired to sow terror in Metro Manila. The three, the court said, carried bags containing explosives.
"All of them performed specific acts with such closeness and coordination as to indicate an unmistakably common purpose or design to commit the crime. Thus, the act of one becomes the act of all, and each of them will thereby be deemed equally guilty of all the crimes committed," the court said.
The three were immediately taken to the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa after the court issued the commitment order.
Another suspect, Fathur Roman Alghozi, was killed in an encounter in Mindanao.