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WHAT WENT BEFORE: The Maguindanao massacre

/ 05:45 AM October 01, 2018

The Maguindanao massacre trial started on Sept. 8, 2010, almost 10 months after the worst election violence in Philippine history.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has jurisdiction over the case, but the hearings are held in a Taguig City jail where the accused are detained.

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The massacre took the lives of 58 people, 32 of them journalists.

During the first hearing, government witness and personal aide of the Ampatuans Lakmodin Saliao directly linked Andal Ampatuan Jr. to the massacre carried out allegedly on the orders of his father.

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He said the Ampatuan clan planned the massacre over dinner on Nov. 17, 2009.

Father and son pleaded not guilty during their arraignment.

Saliao said Ampatuan Jr., then mayor of Datu Unsay town, led the group of more than 100 men, mostly policemen and militiamen, that carried out the massacre.

In his defense, Ampatuan Jr., who was charged with murder on 58 counts, claimed he could not have been at that meeting since he was then on a Philippine Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Manila.

On the day of the massacre, he added, he was attending meetings with local officials at Datu Unsay.

Elusive justice

Almost nine years after, justice remains elusive.

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Of nearly 200 accused, only 115 had been arrested.

The Quezon City RTC decided in separate decisions since the trial began in 2010 to grant bail to a total of 70 accused, including 16 police officers.

There have been several setbacks for the families of the victims, as at least three witnesses have been killed and two potential witnesses have survived attacks and have refused to testify.

There have been claims of bribery and attempts by the defense to delay the trial.

On July 17, 2015, Ampatuan Sr., patriarch of the Ampatuan clan and principal accused in the massacre, died at National Kidney and Transplant Institute.

The Department of Justice has said that the death of Ampatuan Sr. does not remove his civil liability for the massacre.

In May 2017, the Quezon City RTC dismissed bail petitions filed by Ampatuan Jr.

Only one accused, Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan, the youngest son of Andal Sr., has been freed on bail.

In March 2015, he was able to raise P11.6 million for the P200,000 bail set by the court for each of the 58 counts of murder brought against him.

Of the 115 in custody, two had turned state witness and three had been acquitted for lack of evidence, according to Nena Santos, a lawyer for some of the victims’ families.

The remaining 42, who have been refused bail, include the principal suspects—Ampatuan Jr., his brother, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, and Chief Insp. Sukarno Dicay, the chief of the 15th Regional Mobile Group that set up a checkpoint where the victims were stopped by the gunmen.

In March 2017, Akmad Ampatuan, one of the accused, was granted furlough to attend his child’s wedding, while Zaldy was allowed to attend his daughter’s graduation in June 2018, and then her wedding on Aug. 21, 2018. —Inquirer Research

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