Maguindanao massacre: CA reverses decision to spare cop from conviction
MANILA, Philippines—The Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court 2019 decision to spare a policeman from a conviction for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
In a decision dated June 14, 2021, the Court of Appeals Special Division has overturned and set aside the finding of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes that acquitted Police Senior Master Sergeant Badawi Bakal.
The appellate court said Bakal should serve up to 10 years each in prison as a maximum penalty.
Badal was one of the policemen assigned to man the checkpoint in front of the municipal hall of Ampatuan town on the day the massacre took place in November 2009.
“He is sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of four years and two months of prision correccional as minimum to 10 years of prision mayor as maximum for each of the 57 counts of murder,” read the appeals court ruling.
“He is likewise solidarily liable with his co-convicted accused of the same class for payment of civil indemnity and damages to the heirs of the 57 victims, in the sums determined by the respondent trial court,” the decision penned by Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas said.
In reversing the lower court’s ruling, the appeals court said that while acquittals are not reversible because of double jeopardy, they may be assailed, as in the case of Badal because Judge Solis Reyes committed grave abuse of discretion rendering the judgment null and void.
“In fine, the respondent court committed grave abuse of discretion when it turned a blind eye to the prosecution’s having clearly demonstrated the existence of evidence beyond reasonable doubt of Bakal and failed to reconsider, in spite of the opportunity given, the entire evidence that the prosecution has established against the private respondent Bakal,” the court said.
It added that the trial court’s “blatant disregard of material evidence resulted in a violation of the People’s right to due process, amounting to a mistrial,’ it added, as it further said that Solis Reyes’ judgment on Bakal is “but a void judgment.”
In finding Bakal guilty, the appellate court gave weight to the prosecution’s evidence that he threatened other witnesses, namely Esmael Canapia and Takpan Dilon, not to say or divulge anything about what he had seen and witnessed on the day of the massacre.
It said that even without proof that he knew of the plan, Bakal knew that the crime was committed. Bakal admitted to the court during the trial of the case that he would endanger himself and his family if he related his knowledge about the abduction and the massacre, but the appellate court said this only leads to the inevitable conclusion that he was aware of the existence of the crime.
“His acts of threatening Canapia and Dilon with a pistol and of punching the latter for having uttered something about a backhoe negate his claim that he had no knowledge of the commission of the heinous crime,” the appeals court said, adding that Bakal had abused his office when he concealed the identities of the accused and failed to arrest them immediately.
Badal’s conviction made him the 28 people convicted in the massacre. Among those convicted as principal accused are Andal Ampatuan Jr. and former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan. Solis Reyes also convicted 15 others of lesser offenses and acquitted 56, including one of Andal Ampatuan’s other sons, Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan.
Concurring with the decision are Associate Justices Rafael AntonioSantos and Carlito Calpatura.
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