MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE) Two members of the Ampatuan clan charged earlier with multiple murder in connection with the Nov. 23, 2009, Maguindanao massacre were cleared Saturday of the charges by the Department of Justice.
Justice Secretary Alberto Agra told inquirer.net in an interview that he granted the petition for review of suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Mamasapano Mayor Datu Akmad Ampatuan and ordered the dropping of multiple murder case against them for lack of evidence.
Agra said he granted the petition for review filed by Zaldy and Akmad because there was no proof that they have conspired with the others accused to ambush and kill 57 people, including the wife of Buluan Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu and 31 members of the media.
?I ordered the prosecutors to remove the names of Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan from the list of accused,? Agra said.
?Mere relationship, having the same name does not establish conspiracy,? Agra explained.
Agra added that a certification from the Philippine Airlines showed that on Nov. 22, 2009, the suspended governor was in Davao City attending the Kanduli meeting with other regional governors.
Government witnesses claimed that on Nov. 22, the preparations for the ambush of the Mangudadatu convoy started.
On the date of the massacre, Nov. 23, Agra said a PAL certification showed that Zaldy Ampatuan flew to Manila from Davao.
He added that there was also a Smart Infinity statement indicating calls made from Manila to Davao but nothing from Maguindanao.
Agra also cited the certification of another witness on the governor?s presence during the meeting and that they flew together to Manila on Nov. 23.
On the other hand, Agra said he also granted the petition for review filed by Akmad because no witness ever implicated him in the massacre.
?He was not even named by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and PNP (Philippine National Police) as respondent in the case,? Agra said.
However, Agra said he denied the petitions for review filed by former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., his son Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Shariff Aguak Mayor Datu Anwar Ampatuan.