CA junks Zaldy Ampatuan’s plea for bail over murder charges
The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked the petition of ex-ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan to reverse the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court that denied him bail for murder charges.
In a 22-page decision dated April 18 but only released recently, the CA’s Special Eighth Division dismissed the petition for certiorari filed by the alleged mastermind of the “Maguindanao Massacre” for lack of merit.
Ampatuan, who was facing 58 counts of murder, claimed that the Quezon City RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes had gravely abused her discretion when she denied him of bail.
But the CA said that “the imputation of grave abuse of discretion to public respondent is untenable.”
The appellate court explained that bail was “not a matter of right” in cases where the person is charged with a capital offense punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.
“Herein petitioner (Ampatuan) was unquestionably charged with 58 counts of a capital offense of murder which, at the same time of its commission as well as application for bail, is punishable by reclusion perpetua to death,” the CA stressed.
“History will never forget the atrocities perpetrated on 23 November 2009, when 57 innocent civilians were massacred in Sitio Masalay, Municipality of Ampatuan, Maguindanao Province,” it said.
In appealing for bail, Ampatuan argued that he was entitled to bail because the evidence of guilt against him was purportedly not strong.
“We are not persuaded,” the CA said of Ampatuan’s argument.
The court noted that the testimonies of witnesses who pointed to Ampatuan as the alleged author of the crime “appeared to be uniform and has consistently shown that petitioner (Ampatuan) joined various discussions on the execution of his crimes.”
“Even though there is a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused, if on an examination of the entire record the presumption is great that the accused is guilty of a capital offense, bail should be refused,” the CA said.
“In the instant case, the evidence on record would suggest that, while there may be doubts as to petitioner’s overt act that may result in his liability by reason of conspiracy, the presumption is great that he is probably guilty of the charges, therefore, bail should be refused,” it explained. /je
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