The Department of Justice on Monday vowed to take appropriate steps to question the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221’s decision granting bail to Sajid Islam Ampatuan, one of the accused in the Maguindanao massacre case, although the RTC also issued a hold-departure order to prevent the suspect from leaving the country.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered prosecutors handling the case to determine the appropriate legal remedies available, including the filing of a petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) to seek the reversal of the RTC ruling.
De Lima said he had instructed Prosecutor General Claro Arellano to make use of the proper remedy “ASAP.”
RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes upheld her ruling last January granting bail to one of the Ampatuans and denied the motion for reconsideration filed by prosecutors.
“Accused Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, having posted the recommended bail of P200,000 each or in total of 11.6 million in the 58 cases undertaken by Travellers Insurance and Surety Corp which the court finds in order, the same is hereby approved and he is allowed to be on temporary liberty upon the same bond,” the order stated.
The RTC issued the release order after denying the partial motion for reconsideration earlier filed by the prosecution to contest an order by the court granting Sajid’s bail request.
Sajid filed his surety bond last January 30, but the judge “held in abeyance” acting on it pending the resolution of the prosecution’s partial MR.
This time, the judge directed the QC Jail Annex “to immediately release accused Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan from detention unless he is being held for some other lawful cause/s.”
In a three-page decision, RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Reyes ordered Ampatuan released from detention at Camp Bagong Diwa.
Despite the order, Reyes said Ampatuan is a flight-risk.
In another March 9 order, the Quezon City judge granted the prosecution’s partial motion for reconsideration to issue a hold-departure order on Ampatuan.
“Taking into account the nature of the offense(s) charged and the magnitude of these cases, as well as the probability that the accused may jump bail and depart from the country to evade prosecution, the Court rules to grant the prosecution’s motion for the issuance of a hold-departure order filed by the people through the panel of prosecution).
According to Solis, the prosecution failed to establish strong evidence to warrant Ampatuan’s continued detention.
In October 2014, the judge also allowed 16 policemen tagged in the Maguindanao massacre to post P200,000 for each count of the 58 charges of murder filed against them, or a total of P11.6 million.
No one, except Ampatuan, had posted bail.
At least 58 people, including 32 journalists, were abducted and killed in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.
The young Ampatuan’s father — former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. — and his siblings as well as some other 190 people were accused of involvement in the massacre.