The evidence is “insufficient” to hand down a guilty verdict for the main suspect Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case, his former lawyer Raymond Fortun said Wednesday.
Fortun, who had worked for Ampatuan Jr. from 2016 to July 2019, told CNN Philippines some acquittals may take place when the court comes out with the much-awaited ruling on Thursday.
“Not enough for a guilty verdict. For me, it’s always a matter of reasonable doubt eh. If you’re not able to connect the bullet to the gun to the gunman, in a murder case, you’re not going to win,” Fortun told the CNN program ‘The Source’ on Wednesday.
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“I can see some acquittals [in the 101 accused on trial]… I don’t see everyone having evidence of guilt,” he added.
Ampatuan Jr. is among the 197 accused in the gruesome mass murder of 58 victims, including 32 media workers, over a decade ago. The Ampatuans and their family’s private armed group allegedly shot and decapitated the bodies of victims, including members of the rival Mangudadatu family, and civilians who happened to be passing by.
In a related development, the Ampatuan clan wants to keep their political clout in the southern Philippine province alive by trying to make sure prominent clan member Rizaldy “Zaldy” Ampatuan is acquitted in the election-related killings of 58 people, former Maguindanao massacre prosecutor Harry Roque Jr. claimed on Wednesday.
In an interview on ANC, Roque claimed: “There seems to be a concerted effort among the Ampatuan family to spare Zaldy because I think they need to continue their political powers so they have to choose between Zaldy and Unsay [Andal Ampatuan Jr].”
According to Roque, Zaldy is still trying to pressure many groups until now. He claimed that when he was still President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Zaldy’s wife and Sajid Ampatuan managed to visit the Palace, which Roque said was another effort by the political clan to secure their political clout.
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“When I was spokesperson, I was surprised they made it to Malacañang. I never found out who is responsible for it but you can see years after the massacre, their influence remains,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zaldy Ampatuan, the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor, was discharged from the Makati Medical Center and was sent back to the National Capital Region Police Office detention facility on Wednesday, a day before the promulgation.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Reyes ordered the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to bring Ampatuan back to his detention cell.
Ampatuan was on a wheelchair when he arrived at the NCRPO. He was admitted to the hospital in October after suffering a stroke.
A police convoy accompanied prison guards transported Ampatuan along the southbound side of the Skyway from the Makati hospital where he was recovering from a stroke.
The promulgation of the decision on the Maguindanao massacre case will be held in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City on Thursday.
Also, the Commission on Human Rights Wednesday urged authorities to go after the 80 at-large suspects in the Maguindanao massacre case, who must also be held liable for the crime.
“We note reports that around 80 suspects remain at large, including police officers and soldiers, said Jacqueline Ann de Guia, a spokesperson for the commission. “We call on the authorities to exert all efforts to arrest suspects so the families of victims are not at risk and to ascertain that all those who will be proven guilty will suffer the force of law. Full justice can only be achieved when all the perpetrators are held accountable.”
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“Given the scale of suffering, tragedy, and loss of life that the massacre has brought upon journalists, civilians, and our society in general, we can only truly do justice by relentlessly working to ensure that our primary freedoms and values as people are guarded. In our own way, we can honor the victims’ sufferings by fighting the culture of impunity that erodes our humanity and democracy and ensure that no such tragedy will mar our society again,” she added.
Government must consider the safety of journalists a priority, and throughly investigate and resolve any attack on members of media since these have an impact on the right to information and free speech.
De Guia made the statement a day before the Dec. 19 promulgation of the 10-year-old Maguindanao massacre tthat took the lives of 58 people, including 32 journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009 in Shariff Aguak.
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The Maguindanao massacre trampled upon the right to life, right to free elections, right to press freedom and right to information—basic freedoms that any civilized society must enjoy and cultivate, she said.
“After a decade of lengthy case proceedings due to the large number of victims, respondents, and witnesses, we expect no less than a just conclusion. This impunity of magnanimous scale must also jolt us to defend and nurture the basic rights we have and to be ever vigilant against power that abuses and corrupts,” she added.
In a notice sent to newsmen, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez and Assistant Court Administrator Brian Keith F. Hosaka assured the public that the Supreme Court will immediately upload the decision of the trial court in the case in the Supreme Court website as soon as possible.
Only two video cameras will be allowed to take footage of the proceedings to be provided and manned by the personnel of the state-run People’s Television Network upon the request of the Court.
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The first camera of PTV will be directed at the judge and whoever will read the decision, on a wide-angle shot, while the second camera of PTV will be directed at the lawyers, counsels and the parties.
In no case will the shot pan the surroundings or zoom in on any individuals inside the courtroom. The video footage will be shared in real-time with other broadcast networks.
“No expert commentaries shall be allowed during the live coverage of the promulgation,” the guidelines said of the broadcast networks adding that PTV “shall air the promulgation without any interruption.”
In November, the Court granted a 30-day extension upon Reyes’ request to be given more time to come up with a decision after it considered the huge volume of evidence and parties in the case.
Under court rules, all trial courts should promulgate their decision within the 90-day period after the case has been submitted for decision. With PNA
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