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MANILA, Philippines – Seventeen policemen acquitted in the Ampatuan massacre are allowed to rejoin the force if they want to, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Friday, December 20.
“Now that they are set free by virtue of their acquittal, we are now conducting study of their status and individual case folders to prepare our recommendation should anyone of them apply for restoration to full duty status,” PNP spokesman Brigadier General Bernard Banac said.
These personnel were earlier placed on automatic leave of absence without pay while in jail for the November 23, 2009 massacre that killed 58. (WATCH: Trial of the decade: Highlights of Ampatuan massacre case)
On Thursday, December 19, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 found 28 accused, including masterminds Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan, guilty of murder. They were sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or a maximum of 40 years, without parole.
A total of 56 accused were acquitted by the court, including Maguindanao town mayor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan. Most of those acquitted are policemen. (DOCUMENT: Full decision on Ampatuan massacre case)
The acquitted cops will have to go through a different process to be reinstated in service – should they decide to return to the PNP.
“Their [initial] dismissal from the PNP stemmed from preponderance of evidence which is entirely different from criminal case proceedings,” Banac said.
They will will not receive back wages.
The promulgation on Thursday marked the conclusion of decade-long trial over the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history. It is also considered as the single deadliest attack on journalists in the world.
Despite the conviction of the Ampatuan brothers, families of the victims expressed fear and frustration overt the acquittal of several individuals, especially police assigned in Maguindanao.
The Department of Justice, meanwhile, said that the number of acquittals was “more or less expected.” – Rappler.com