Amid confusion, families to clarify Ampatuan massacre verdict

Lian Buan

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Amid confusion, families to clarify Ampatuan massacre verdict
4 people part of the 101 on trial did not receive judgments. A policeman who offered his troop for the massacre plot is both convicted and acquitted in the ruling.

MANILA, Philippines – The families of victims of the Ampatuan massacre will file a clarificatory motion before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 because of some confusion in the verdict.

“We will file a motion on Monday,” private prosecutor Nena Santos told Rappler on Saturday, December 21.

There were 4 suspects who underwent trial but who did not get judgments in Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes’ 761-page ruling. 

Convicted and acquitted

Police Superintendent Bahnarin Kamaong, said to be a trusted cop of the convicted Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr, and who offered his troop for the massacre, appeared both in the convicted and acquitted list.

Shortly after the promulgation of judgment on Thursday, December 19, Maguindanao Representative Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu expressed concern over Kamaong’s supposed acquittal. (READ: SUMMARY: Why many were acquitted, some convicted in Ampatuan massacre)

“Medyo nag-ano lang tayo dahil may nakawala, si Sajid Ampatuan at si Kamaong yung colonel,” Mangudadatu told reporters. (We are just concerned that some got away like Sajid Ampatuan and Kamaong the colonel.)

But Santos believes Kamaong was convicted because Judge Reyes’ decision widely referred to the policeman as being part of the major cast that plotted the massacre.

Rappler asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) if Kamaong was among those transferred to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) on the day of their convictions, but Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said “let’s clear it up first with the court.”

‘Not fatal errors’

“The body of the decision is to be followed. Mistake in names in the dispositive part is not fatal,” Santos said.

In the body of the ruling, Kamaong’s participation was described in detail, including his comments in the meetings, saying at one point: “Pagdating ng oras na ‘yan, kami na ang bahala, pati ang mga tao ko.” (When that time comes, we’ll take care of it, even my men.)

On November 22, 2009, a day before the massacre, the Ampatuans held a meeting in Andal Sr’s farm where Kamaong instructed his cops to bring out guns from the elder Ampatuan’s vehicle.

“While Kamaong did not actually participate in the shooting of herein victims, neither was he actually seen at the crime site on November 23, 2009, it cannot be denied that he was part of the plot to kill Datu Toto,” said Reyes.

“His overt act in directing the police officers to bring out the firearms apparently to be used by the assailants in carrying out their plan speaks for itself. No other conclusion can be had except that he was part of the conspiratorial act. He thus, must be made to suffer the consequences thereof,” added Reyes.

However, when Reyes got to the discussion of acquitting 54 policemen and civilian volunteers who “had no prior knowledge of the plot and not at all identified in the locus criminis (scene of the crime),” she also referred to Kamaong as innocent, comparing his role to the acquitted P/Supt. Abdulwahid Pedtucasan.

“Same thing can be said of Kamaong. Nothing can be attributed to him except that he manned the checkpoint at Ampatuan Municipal Police Station. No overt act in pursuance of the plot to kill Datu Toto can be attributed to him,” said Reyes.

Santos said the decision could have been referring to SPO2 Badawi P. Bakal, one of the 4 people who did not get judgments.

The 4 suspects who underwent trial but who did not receive judgments are:  SPO2 George S. Labayan, SPO2 Badawi P. Bakal, PO1 Abdulbayan U. Mundas, and Rakim M. Amil.

A group of policemen who were acquitted for having no knowledge of the plot and for not having been identified in the massacre site is called the “Labayan” group because their leader was SPO2 George Labayan. These cops claim they were just given assignments to man checkpoints.

PO1 Ysmael Baraquir, on the other hand, is among the 80 at large. He has not undergone trial yet, but was acquitted in Reyes’ ruling.

Santos said the errors cannot be used by the defense to invalidate the decision.

[It’s not enough] to invalidate the whole decision. It should be read in particular to the concerned accused only,” said Santos.

In the dispositive part of the conviction, Kamaong was among the 28 sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole, along with Ampatuan brothers Andal Jr, Zaldy, and Anwar Sr, and their sons and nephews Anwar Jr and Anwar Sajid.

Their other brother, Datu Sajid Islam, and their cousin Datu Akmad “Tato” were acquitted.

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.