Quezon City trial court convicts some Ampatuan clan members for Maguindanao Massacre
The Quezon City Regional Trial Court has found guilty beyond reasonable doubt 28 people, including some members of the powerful Ampatuan clan and police officers, for acting as "principals" for the death of 57 people 10 years ago in Maguindanao province.
In a televised promulgation held inside the Quezon City Jail Annex at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, QC-RTC Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes sentenced eight Ampatuans as "principal by direct participation" in the Maguindanao massacre, which took place on Nov. 23, 2009 in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town.
They include former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr.; his brothers former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan and Datu Anwar Ampatuan Sr; his nieces former Maguindanao Governor Datu Anwar Sajid "Datu Ulo" Ampatuan and Datu Anwar "Datu Ipi"Ampatuan Jr.; members of Civilian Voluntary Organization Manny Ampatuan, Mohades Ampatuan, and Misuari Ampatuan "to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of reclusion perpetua without parole" pursuant to Republic Act. No. 9346 or "An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines" for 57 counts of murder.
Police said there were 58 people, 32 of them journalists, who were killed in what is considered as the worst case election-related violence in the country. But the remains of the 58th victim, Reynaldo Momay, a photo journalist for Midland Review, was never found.
"The court finds that the prosecution has found beyond reasonable doubt that the killing of the 57 victims were planned prior to November 23, 2009. Both direct and corroborative evidence point toward this conclusion," Solis-Reyes said in her decision.
The other accused who were found to have acted as principal perpetrators were Police Inspector Saudi Mokamad, Police Officer 1 Jonathan Engid, Abedin Alamada, Talembo "Tammy" Masukat, Theng P. Sali, Nasser Esmael, Police Chief Inspector Sukarno Dicay, P/Supt. Abusama Mundas Maguid, P/Supt. Bahnarin Kamaong, Tato Tampogao, Mohamad T. Datumanong, Taya Bangkulat, Salik Bangkulat, Thong Guiamano, Sonny K. Pindi, Armando Ambalgan, Kudza Masukat Uguia, Edres Kasan, Zacaria P. Akil, and Samaon Andatuan.
Fifteen other people, 14 of them policemen, were also sentenced to suffer an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of six years of prision correccional as minimum to 10 years and eight months of prision mayor as maximum for being accessories to the gruesome killings.
Solis-Reyes, however, acquitted Andal Jr's brother-in-law and former acting Maguindanao Vice Governor Datu Akmad "Tato" Ampatuan; his brother Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan and 51 other accused, including several other policemen "on ground of reasonable doubt."
Three other cops were also acquitted as evidence of the prosecution has "absolutely failed to prove their guilt."
Those acquitted were ordered to be released immediately unless they are being detained for some other lawful cause or causes.
There were 101 accused who were tried in the Maguindanao massacre, while some 80 others were still at large.
Solis-Reyes also directed the principal accused to pay the heirs of the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre jointly and severally.
The lawyers of Andal Jr., Zaldy and other convicts said they would file motions for reconsideration within 15 days.
During the promulgation, only the dispositive portion of the consolidated partial decision was read.
Solis-Reyes issued the warrants of arrest against some of the suspects who failed to appear during the promulgation.
The convicted felons were also ordered to be immediately transferred to New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City from the Quezon City Jail Annex.
Former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., also alleged mastermind in the massacre, was acquitted after he died in July 2015 while in detention in Camp Bagong Diwa.
According to the court, the killings were planned when Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu decided to file his certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor in the 2010 elections to challenge the Ampatuans, who had their own armed group, numbering not less than 300 men.
The court said the Mangudadatus, who had their own armed escorts of at least 200 men, planned that their female relatives would be the ones to file the COC for Mangudadatu at the Commission on Elections based in Shariff Aguak to avoid trouble since women were highly respected under the Muslim culture.
They also tapped the media to accompany them in the supposed filing of the COC early morning of Nov. 23, 2009.
But the convoy of the Mangudadatus and members of the press were stopped by the armed men while on their way to Shariff Aguak. The Mangudadatus, with the help of a chopper, was only able to discover the crime site at about 4 pm of that same fateful day.
Quoting relatives of the victims, the court said some victims had their hands tied, clothes were open, killed inside the vehicle, that the bodies were crushed, and their items were scattered all over the ground.
The 57 bodies were recovered from two grave sites - one of the sites was not yet finished given that the bucket of backhoe was still entrenched in it.
The recovered backhoe used in digging the grave sites had the markings, which read "Acquired under the administration of Datu Andal S. Ampatuan, Sr., Governor, and Sangguniang Panlalawigan Members, Province of Maguindanao," "PC 300," and "Komatsu."
Recovered from the crime scene among others were 126 pieces of 5.56 mm empty shells, three pieces of 7.62 mm empty shells, one pc AK-47 empty shell, and 32 pieces of mini maz.
Some female victims were tested positive for the presence of semen.
Aside from Momay, the 57 other individuals who were killed were Bai Genalin T. Mangudadatu, Toto Mangdadatu's wife, Bai Farinah M. Hassan, Bai Eden G. Mangudadatu, Faridah G. Sabdullah, Surayda Bernan, Rowena Ante, Lailani Balayman, Pinky Balayman, Wahida A. Kalim, Marife Cordova, Marites Cablitas, Mamotobai G. Mangudadatu, Raida S. Abdul, Gina dela Cruz , Concepcion Brizuela, Bienvenido Legarta, Norton “Sedick” Edza, Rasul Daud, Rosell Morales, Eugene P. Demillo, Rahima P. Palawan, Noel Decena, Jephon Cadagdagan, Alejandro Medrano Reblando, Catalino Palmani Oquendo, Jr., John Caniban, Mercy Palabrica, Anthony Ridao, Hannibal D. Cachuela, Romeo O. Cabillo, Joy “Jose” Duhay, Benjie Adolfo, Henry Heneroso Araneta, Ernesto S. Maravilla, Jr., Jolito Evardo, Daniel D. Tiamzon, Eduardo Lechonsito, Cecile Lechonsito, Fernando Razon, Lindo Lupogan, Daryll Vincent delos Reyes, Andres M. Teodoro, Abdillah Ayada, Wilhelm S. Palabrica, Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon, Francisco Subang, Jr., Napoleon Salaysay, Leah Dalmacio, Meriam Paandal Calimbol, Mc Delbert Areola, Junpee Gatchalian, Arturo Betia, Rey Villareal Merisco, Joel V. Parcon, Ronnie Laru-an Perante, Rubello R. Bataluna, and Victor O. Nuñez.
Solis-Reyes ordered the archiving of the case of some 80 other suspects who remained at large. Celerina Monte/DMS