‘Tama na please’: How lawyer’s text in last moments convicted Andal Ampatuan

Lian Buan

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‘Tama na please’: How lawyer’s text in last moments convicted Andal Ampatuan
Lawyer Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon sends a message to a fellow lawyer: 'Please advise client Ampatuan. Tama na pls, we might get killed they are firing.'

MANILA, Philippines – Lawyer Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon sent pleading text messages to a fellow lawyer as the Mangudadatu convoy was being massacred by the Ampatuans on November 23, 2009.

The messages were not able to save her and her father Catalino, but they ultimately helped convict the mastermind and lead gunman, Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr.

“Said text message of Atty. Oquendo-Ayon is admissible to show that Ampatuan was present at the crime site,” said Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes in explaining the conviction of Andal Jr, and how it closed the loop of the other eyewitness accounts of Andal Jr being present in the massacre site, despite an alibi that he was at the municipal hall. (READ: SUMMARY: Why many were acquitted, some convicted in Ampatuan massacre)

‘Tama na please’

“Christian grtng (greeting), kidnap me with tatay,” was the first message Cynthia sent at 10:39 am.

She meant that she and her father Catalino Oquendo Jr had been kidnapped.

The text was sent to fellow lawyer Arnold Oclarit: “Christian grtng (greeting)! Kidnap me with tatay, dahan mi, pls advise client Ampatuan. Tama na, pls, we myt get killed they r firing. Pls send to Tom.” 

(Father and I have been kidnapped, please advise client Ampatuan. Stop please, we might get killed, they are firing. Please send to Tom.)

Tom referred to Tomas Falgui, one of the legal counsels of the Ampatuans at the time.

Falgui said Cynthia was his “long-time friend.”

Falgui said Oclarit sent him Cynthia’s messages including a message that said “true not joke,” and another which read: “Daghan na patay. Dadulo mi. Igna tom.” (Many people killed, I’m next, tell Tom).”

Falgui said on the witness stand that he called lawyer Jose Barroso, then the presidential assistant for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the most senior lawyer for the Ampatuans at the time, but that he did not reach him.

Falgui was able to talk to Nori Unas “who offered to make some calls.”

None of them was able to save Cynthia and Catalino.

Interviewed at Camp Bagong Diwa before the promulgation of judgment on Thursday, December 19, Cynthia’s mother Nenita Oquendo said she is thankful that she is financially stable and all her children have done well for themselves. But she endures a lasting suffering.

“The feeling of losing them, ‘yan ang aking sakit sa buhay (that is my lifetime pain),” Nenita said.

‘Malapit na si Unsay’

At around 10:17 am, Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said he received a call from his wife, Bai Gigi Mangudadatu.

“Malapit na si Unsay…sinampal ako (Unsay is near, he slapped me),” Bai Gigi said, referring to Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr, one of the 28 convicted and sentenced to reclusion perpetua for the massacre.

However, the prosecution was able to present only the Globe billing statement of Bai Gigi’s phone, while Cynthia’s messages made from her Sony Ericsson cellphone were retrieved by the National Bureau of Investigation.

For Judge Reyes, Cynthia’s text which came 22 minutes after the supposed call “constitutes res gestae.” Res gestae is a legal principle where the words spoken during a startling occurrence may be used to prove that the event occurred.

“Assuming en arguendo that the phone calls between Datu Toto and Bai Genalyn Mangudadatu and the latter’s utterances were not substantiated by the prosecution given that only the Globe billing statement was adduced, undisputed is the fact however, that the text and call transcription made by the NBI on the Sony Ericsson P1I cellular phoneof victim Atty. Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon constitutes res gestae as such utterance was made during a startling occurrence,” said Judge Reyes. 

Andal Jr and 27 others, including his brothers Zaldy and Anwar Sr; and their son and nephew Anwar Jr and Anwar Sajid, were sentenced to reclusion perpetua of up to 40 years. An additional 15 people were sentenced to 6-10 years in prison for being accessories to the crime.

A total of 56, including Ampatuan scions Datu Sajid Islam and Datu Akmad “Tato”, were acquitted. – Rappler.com

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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 lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.