SC affirms CA ruling denying bail request of Zaldy Ampatuan
MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court denied the bid of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan to be released on bail by upholding the ruling earlier issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QCRTC) and Court of Appeals (CA).
In 2015, the QCRTC Branch 221 denied Ampatuan’s bail petition. Government prosecutors opposed his bail petition by presenting around 300 pieces of exhibits and testimonies.
The pieces of evidence include sworn statements of various witnesses including then Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, former Ampatuan Vice Mayor Rasul Sangki, accused-turned-state witnesses Sukarno Badal and Esmael Canapia, and eyewitnesses Noh Akil, Lakmodin Saliao, and Esmail Amil Enog.
Other evidence include medico-legal reports, autopsy pictures, anatomical sketches of the cadavers done based on the description mentioned in the witnesses’ records from the telecommunications companies.
Ampatuan took his case to the Court of Appeals who also upheld the lower court’s ruling.
The appeals court through Associate Justice Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob said the lower court’s decision denying his bail plea “was not unreasonable but, on the contrary, was the result of a thorough assessment of the evidence presented before the trial court. By making a preliminary appraisal of the merits of the case, public respondent did not exercise her discretion in a careless manner.”
It was concurred by Associate Justices Samuel Gaerlan and Ramon Paul Hernando.
The CA ruling prompted Ampatuan to take his case to the Supreme Court.
In dismissing Ampatuan’s petition, the High Court said Ampatuan failed to show any reversible error on the part of the Court of Appeals.
The Court said if they will take into consideration the evidence presented by Ampatuan and rule on its admissibility and probative value, they would have prematurely ruled on the case.
“By deciding for or against his bail application on the basis of factual issues raised by petitioner, the Court will be prematurely deciding the case beyond the parameters of judicial review at this stage of the proceedings and pre-empt the parties from presenting their respective evidence during trial,” the Supreme Court said.
“The Court must defer making a conclusion on this matter since the participation of conspirators, principals, accomplices, and accessories are matters adjudged as a whole at the conclusion of the evidence-in-chief,” the high court added.
The case of 58 counts of murder is already submitted for decision.
Out of the 197 accused, 103 went on trial including prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr., Zaldy Ampatuan and one of their sibling, Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan though the latter was allowed to post bail by the court in January 2015.
Another accused, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. died in detention last July 17, 2015.
The trial court has heard a total of 273 witnesses divided into 166 for the prosecution and 107 for the defense while it also managed to resolve all the 15 sets of formal offer of evidence in connection with the bail applications of 70 accused.
The prosecution panel in this case is composed of 10 public prosecutors and eight private prosecutors, as against the 23 defense lawyers and law firms. The transcripts of stenographic notes have reached 59 volumes, while the records of the cases are 129 volumes thick, plus 10 volumes of prosecution’s evidence. /jpv
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