MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan was not present during the promulgation of judgment of the Ampatuan massacre on Thursday, December 19.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutor moved that the court order Sajid Islam to explain in writing why he is not present, and “if warranted a warrant is issued and his bail canceled.”
The hearing was supposed to start at 9 am but didn’t begin until 11am. A roll call of the accused set off the hearing, where court staff Allan Moral noted that Sajid was “not in court.”
Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes said all accused were notified and that “they cannot waive their presence” in the promulgation.
Sajid’s brothers, Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy, were present and at the front row of the gallery of the accused. Zaldy was in a wheelchair and wearing arm support, after having been confined for weeks at the Makati Medical Center. Zaldy was ordered to return to jail the day before, on Wednesday, December 18.
Sajid was granted bail in 2015 by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes. State witnesses testified to seeing Sajid in alleged meetings to plan the massacre, but none heard him speak, unlike Zaldy who allegedly actively participated.
For that, Judge Reyes said at the time that “the totality of the circumstances presently fails to reach the threshold of strong evidence of guilt” for Sajid. He posted an P11-million bail for his temporary freedom.
Sajid is the suspended mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao. He had been convicted of graft for alleged ghost projects in Maguindanao while he was acting governor in 2009, months before the massacre on November 23, 2009.
The Ampatuan massacre, which killed 58 people, 32 of them journalists, is said to be the deadliest attack on media in the world. – Rappler.com
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