Police official in Maguindanao massacre pleads ‘not guilty’ at arraignment
MANILA, Philippines—The police official who allegedly ordered the deployment of more men and the setting up of a checkpoint that “facilitated” the abduction of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre victims pleaded not guilty to 57 counts of murder at his arraignment at a Quezon City court Thursday.
Superintendent Abdulwahid Pedtucasan, formerly of the 15th Regional Mobile Group (RMG) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is the 76th accused in the case to be arraigned before Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s Branch 221.
Based on the information filed against him and 195 others, he allegedly conspired on November 23, 2009, at a hilly portion of Sitio (sub-village) Masalay, Barangay (village) Salman, Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, with the other accused to kill 57 persons, including media men and members of the Mangudadatu political clan.
Pedtucasan’s arraignment followed the judge’s denial of his motion for the dropping of the charges against him on grounds that he had merely performed his duty.
The former ARMM police official had earlier admitted deploying additional men to the Maitumig detachment in the town of Datu Unsay on orders of 15th RMG director Supt. Bahnarin Kamaong. Pedtucasan was also tagged as the police official who ordered on Nov. 23, 2009, the setting up of a checkpoint by the 5th company of the 15th RMG.
Solis-Reyes Pedtucan’s motion on July 18, saying that the deployment of additional personnel and the order setting up the checkpoint had somehow facilitated the abduction and subsequent killing of the victims.
The judge also ruled that there was probable cause to indict Pedtucasan along with his co-accused on 57 counts of murder. The judge noted that the determination of probable cause was the issue at hand, “not the certainty of the commission of the crime charged.”
At Thursday’s arraignment, Solis-Reyes set the pre-trial conference for Pedtucasan on August 22 at the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig at which another accused, Datutuhon Esmael, was enjoined to attend.
She set a preliminary conference for all the parties in the case on August 20 at 1:30 p.m. before the branch clerk of court.
Out of the 196 accused in the Maguindanao massacre, 97 have been arrested while 99 remain at large. Some 56 of the detained accused have applied for bail.