No bail for Ampatuan Jr.
After hearings that dragged on for seven years, a Quezon City court dismissed the bail petitions filed by Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., the principal accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of QC Regional Trial Court Branch 221 ruled against granting provisional liberty to Ampatuan, former mayor of Datu Unsay town, saying the “evidence of guilt against the accused is strong.”
“The Court finds that strong evidence exists that accused Datu Unsay participated in the execution of these alleged crimes,” Reyes said in a 48-page ruling. “There is no other option but to deny his bail applications notwithstanding proofs that the accused could not have attended the alleged meeting on Nov. 17, 2009.”
The judge was referring to the meeting among leaders of the Ampatuan clan, including the patriarch Ampatuan Sr., at the house of Andal’s brother and coaccused Zaldy. The elder Ampatuan, who battled liver cancer while in detention, died of a heart attack on July 17, 2015.
According to the testimony of Lakmodin Saliao, a personal aide of the Ampatuans, they met that day to discuss how they could prevent Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu from filing his certificate of candidacy for governorship of Maguindanao.
Saliao said it was Ampatuan Jr. who suggested killing the Mangudadatus, his family’s longtime political rivals.
The prosecution has presented witnesses saying Ampatuan Jr. was present at the massacre site in Sitio Masalay and “giving commands to armed men” who killed a total of 58 people, including 32 media workers who were in a convoy with the Mangudadatus.
Reyes cited testimonies including those from witnesses who claimed they saw the accused “shooting at victims with high-powered weapons. A witness saw him firing at those who were already dead.”
In his defense, Ampatuan Jr., who was charged with murder on 58 counts, claimed he could not have been at that meeting since he was then on a Philippine Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Manila.
On the day of the massacre, he added, he was attending meetings with local officials at Datu Unsay.
But the court said the defense “failed to substantiate the alibi” given by the accused. “These deliberate, positive and numerous acts, coupled with uniform utterances heard by prosecution witnesses, show a strong evidence of guilt of accused,” it stressed.
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