Gov’t opposes Zaldy Ampatuan hospital arrest
Zaldy Ampatuan’s overnight stay at Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City drew indignation not only from the families of the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre but also the Palace.
The families on Thursday asked Quezon City Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to cite Ampatuan and his jailer, Sr. Insp. Bernardino Edgar Camus, for contempt of court for defying her Wednesday order that he undergo a medical checkup as an out-patient.
Ampatuan was to have been brought back last night to his cell at the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City, on the directive of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
But Judge Reyes issued an order allowing him to stay at the hospital until noon today (Friday).
Earlier in Malacañang, President Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and one of the principal accused in the massacre of 57 people (the remains of a 58th victim have yet to be found) should have been brought back to his cell on Wednesday night.
Lacierda also said the Aquino administration would oppose legal moves to have Ampatuan put under hospital arrest.
“We wanted Zaldy Ampatuan to be brought back to [his cell]. Clearly, that’s what should have been done,” Lacierda told reporters.
Lacierda also said it was up to Ampatuan to prove that his condition required hospital confinement.
“We don’t see any reason why he should be placed under hospital arrest,” Lacierda said. “We will ask the prosecutors to file the strongest possible opposition.”
But Rosendo Dial, the director of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), tried to defend his decision to permit Ampatuan’s overnight stay at the hospital.
“Between life and death, we prefer life over death for the Ampatuans,” Dial said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she found Ampatuan’s overnight stay in the hospital in defiance of a clear court order “very objectionable.”
“We are objecting to it because he is a flight risk. The true state of his health must be certified by a government doctor, and not a private doctor,” De Lima said.
She said the prosecution panel in the Maguindanao massacre case filed a motion with Judge Reyes’ court on Wednesday night questioning Ampatuan’s continued stay at Philippine Heart Center without a written order from the court.
De Lima said Robredo had also questioned Ampatuan’s failure to return to his cell after undergoing a medical checkup for his supposed heart ailment.
“[Robredo] said he wanted to return Zaldy Ampatuan to Camp Bagong Diwa. But I think the court should be asked to clarify his status as out-patient,” she said.
On the possibility of putting Ampatuan under hospital arrest, De Lima said: “We will oppose that. We will not agree to such a scenario of a hospital arrest. It’s suspicious.
“But everything will be subject to the discretion of the court.”
De Lima also said she had directed the prosecutors handling the Maguindanao massacre trial to find out if Ampatuan’s doctors had indeed issued a certification that he should stay in the hospital overnight.
Private prosecutor Harry Roque filed the petition for indirect contempt on behalf of Editha Tiamzon et al., telling reporters that “[the doctors] should first distinguish if it’s an illness or a life-threatening condition.”
Camus, who is responsible for Ampatuan’s security, was included in the contempt charge because the former ARMM governor was admitted to Philippine Heart Center with his knowledge.
Roque assailed Ampatuan’s “contemptuous disregard” of Reyes’ Wednesday order, and said his insistence on staying at the hospital was a “cynical violation” of the court’s discretion.
“That a high-risk detainee such as the accused will be confined for an indefinite period of time at an inadequately secured public hospital like Philippine Heart Center can only be countenanced by the court at the risk of public safety,” part of the seven-page petition read.
Ampatuan arrived at the hospital at noon on Wednesday after Reyes issued the order allowing him to be treated as an out-patient.
Ampatuan’s lawyers had asked the court to allow his further stay at the hospital based on the recommendation of his doctors who said his condition was “unstable.”
Late Wednesday evening, Reyes issued an order saying she would hold in abeyance her decision on the request pending Ampatuan’s submission of a detailed medical abstract.
In the abstract received by the court at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, Ampatuan’s doctors recommended his continued confinement as well as a coronary angiogram on Saturday.
The doctors had diagnosed Ampatuan to be suffering from acute coronary syndrome, poorly controlled diabetes mellitus and hypertension.
But Roque and another private prosecutor, Gilbert Andres, pointed out that the judge’s order was “clear enough.”
“It is apparent that the accused had no intention of complying with the court’s order … [and] intended to place the court in an awkward position,” the petition read.
“Indeed, the accused contemptuously disregarded the court’s explicit order that he only be an out-patient at Philippine Heart Center pending submission of required documents,” it read.
The prosecutors said public safety should come before Ampatuan’s “medically questionable request for confinement.
“If the accused’s own recent public statements are to be believed, he has become a sure target for assassination, considering that he has now offered his own testimony against his coaccused,” they said.
Ampatuan has recently offered to testify against his father and brother in the Maguindanao massacre trial.
That offer was rejected by the government, but another offer by him to expose what he knew of cheating in the 2007 elections was being weighed.
Between doc and judge
The kin of the Maguindanao massacre victims have said they preferred that Ampatuan receive medical treatment at Camp Bagong Diwa, under the supervision of doctors from Philippine Heart Center, Philippine General Hospital and other reputable government hospitals.
But BJMP Director Dial said Ampatuan was in a “life or death” situation on Wednesday evening, which prompted the warden to allow him to stay on at the hospital.
Dial said he and other jail officers did not want Ampatuan to die in their custody.
He said Robredo had “wanted us to bring [Ampatuan] back immediately” but that he had explained to the interior secretary why they could not do that.
Robredo said he was satisfied by the BJMP’s explanation.
He said the attending doctor who examined Ampatuan had told the jail officers that the doctor would “take responsibility” for the decision.
“It was between the doctor and the judge,” Robredo said. Reports from Norman Bordadora, Julie Aurelio, Marlon Ramos and DJ Yap