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Ampatuan death: No effect on massacre case, trial on

NOV. 23, 2009  Some of the bodies of the 58 victims of the mass murder lie on a hill in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

NOV. 23, 2009 Some of the bodies of the 58 victims of the mass murder lie on a hill in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Even in death, Andal Ampatuan Sr. will have to answer for the massacre of 58 people nearly six years ago in a town bearing his name, the deadliest election-related violence in the country.

The death of the Ampatuan clan patriarch, the main suspect in the massacre that shocked the world, does not spare him from his civil debt, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Saturday.

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“Andal Sr.’s death extinguishes his criminal liability, but not his civil liability for the massacre,” De Lima said.

The trial at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 will also proceed as usual, she said.

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“[His death will have] no effect on the trial of the case. Trial continues with respect to the other accused,” De Lima said.

Harry Roque, a private prosecutor representing 15 of the massacre victims, said it was unfortunate that both the victims and Ampatuan Sr. were “deprived of judicial determination of whether he was guilty or not.”

“Since he is dead, the criminal case is extinguished, but the civil case (for damages) continues. What will happen is he will be substituted by his estate,” Roque said.

Roque said he will move for a summary judgment on Ampatuan Sr.’s case once the prosecution has filed the formal offer of evidence at the Quezon City court.

“We have presented our evidence but there is no formal offer of evidence yet. Once there is a formal offer, we will move for summary judgment since Andal Sr. did not present evidence in the bail hearing,” he said.

While the summary judgment will not result in a conviction, it will determine whether the victims are entitled to recover damages. Roque’s clients are asking for P30 million each in damages.

The human-rights lawyer’s group Centerlaw, which is headed by Roque, said that “the search for justice continues and we will persevere on behalf of our clients.”

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Ampatuan Sr.’s lawyer, Salvador Panelo, expressed frustration that his client died before he could defend himself in court.

“As a lawyer, I regret that he has to die and deprive me of presenting him as my witness and depriving himself to testify on the side of the Ampatuans,” he said.

Panelo said he had evidence to dispute claims by a key witness who had testified that he was at a family meeting called by Ampatuan, where the decision was made to carry out the massacre.

 

Snail’s pace trial

Some of the massacre victims’ relatives said they had forgiven Ampatuan Sr. but wished that he had faced justice before he died.
READ: Maguindanao Massacre widows ‘cannot forgive’ Ampatuan Sr.

The trial has been excruciatingly slow, with allegations of bribery, potential witnesses being killed or threatened, and delaying maneuvers by the clan’s lawyers. Many of the victims’ widows have been left struggling, their children forced to drop out of school due to poverty.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno recently appealed for the public’s understanding, saying earlier this month that the trial was proceeding “in good time” given the magnitude of the highly complex case.

She said she was “very proud of the pace” at which the trial was going, with the high court coming up with unprecedented rules to expedite the disposition of the case.

For one, Quezon City RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes was allowed to focus solely on the one trial in her court, and given three assisting judges to handle the case.

She was also allowed to issue partial judgments so she could release decisions after finishing the presentation of evidence against certain accused, proceeding later with the trial of the other accused.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who lost his wife Genalyn in the massacre, said he would have wanted for Ampatuan Sr. to have asked forgiveness for the sins he had committed before he died.

But then he died without repenting, he said.

“Let Allah judge him for his sins,” Mangudadatu said.

“May he rest in peace,” he added.

But the Maguindanao governor said the provincial government would not provide burial honors for Ampatuan Sr.

“He was not a hero who is entitled to burial honors but we will not oppose his burial in Maguindanao,” Mangudadatu said.

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TAGS: Ampatuan clan patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr., CenterLaw, civil debt, election-related violence, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, Leila de Lima, Maguindanao massacre, Massacre, Quezon City, Salvador Panelo
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