Verdict on Ampatuan hangs 9 years after massacre of 58

The Department of Justice on Monday said the multiple murder cases against Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. and other accused in connection with the massacre of 58 persons, including 32 journalists, on November 23, 2009 has already been submitted for resolution by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 22.

“Per information from our prosecution panel, the case against Unsay is now submitted for decision upon ruling of the court on his formal offer of exhibits,” Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon said in a text message.

Fadullon, head of the DOJ’s National Prosecution Service, said that Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes is now expected to set the promulgation of the case where she will decide whether to convict or acquit Ampatuan.

“The court has yet to set the date of promulgation, which will cover Unsay and all other accused—except those who were belatedly arrested,” Fadullon said.

The massacre, which gained global attention for the record number of journalists killed in a single incident, will mark its ninth anniversary this Friday.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said they expect the RTC to decide on the case in the first quarter next year, expressing confidence that the prosecution had presented strong evidence to establish the guilt of Ampatuan and other principal accused.

Before the RTC concluded recently the hearings on the cases, one of the witnesses—Thonti Lawani—recanted his testimony on the involvement of Ampatuan in the massacre.

Lawani has recanted his earlier testimony that he saw Ampatuan giving orders to his commanders at a crossing in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan town and that he also saw the convoy of vehicles going toward the hilly portion of the area where the massacre happened.

In his 10-page affidavit submitted to the court last Sept. the witness took back his testimony and claimed that he was pressured by the family of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu to testify against Ampatuan.

However, Guevarra said that such recantation barely have an impact on the case.

“It has no impact on the case against Ampatuan. The prosecution has more than enough evidence and its case against Ampatuan remains very strong despite the recantation,” he said.

Guevarra pointed out that the prosecution panel composed of public prosecutors and private lawyers had presented many eyewitnesses during trial to establish the involvement of Ampatuan in the massacre.

Lawyer Nena Santos, lawyer of Mangudadatu and private prosecutor in the case, has denied the allegation and said their camp plans to file the perjury charge against Lawani.

Santos also submitted to the RTC affidavits of two other witnesses—Abdulsatar Maliwawaw and Faisal Amilil - who claimed that they were offered money to also recant their testimonies against Ampatuan.

They alleged that a barangay chairman—purportedly a representative of Ampatuan—approached them in August and offered P150,000 each to recant their testimonies.

The RTC has already heard a total of 273 witnesses: 166 prosecution witnesses, and 107 defense witnesses. The Court has resolved all the 15 sets of the formal offer of evidence in connection with the bail applications of 70 accused. It has likewise resolved all bail applications of the accused, including that of Ampatuan, which was denied last May.

READ: Case vs Ampatuan strong despite recantation of witness—DoJ

Four of the accused, including Andal Ampatuan Sr., died while in detention while four of the accused who submitted their demurrer to evidence were acquitted by the trial court.

Ampatuan’s brother, former Maguindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan is also standing trial in these cases, which involve 58 victims and 197 accused (15 Ampatuans), with 115 of them already arrested.

The prosecution panel, in this case, is composed of 10 public prosecutors and eight private prosecutors, as against the 23 defense lawyers and law firms. The transcripts of stenographic notes have reached 59 volumes, while the records of the cases are 129 volumes thick, plus 10 volumes of prosecution’s evidence.

READ: Massacre suspect allowed to join daughter’s wedding

Topics: Department of Justice , Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. , Richard Anthony Fadullon
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