MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld a local court decision absolving the Ampatuans and their allies of rebellion charges in connection to the 2009 Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 people, according to a lawyer.
The Ampatuans will stay in jail because of pending multiple murder charges.
In March 2010, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Vivencio Baclig ruled to dismiss the rebellion charges. The Office of the Solicitor General questioned the verdict before the CA.
Charged were Andal Ampatuan Sr., former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, and several relatives and allies. The Department of Justice said they conspired to command their followers “to rise publicly and take arms against the Republic for the purpose of removing allegiance to the government.”
The CA made a right call on this one, said lawyer Harry Roque, counsel for the relatives of 15 massacre victims. “These charges of rebellion were trumped up by GMA as a form of a ruse to make people think that she was serious in running after the Ampatuans for the massacre…. She was equally to blame for the massacre,” Roque said.
“We believe that no rebellion took place since rebellion requires the taking up of arms against the government. This could not have happened since the Ampatuans were loyal allies of the regime of GMA,” Roque added.
Roque said the CA decision on the rebellion case will not affect the pending multiple murder charges against the Ampatuans.
Malacanang is not surprised by the decision.
“If I remember it right, when we were still outside of government, we felt that the rebellion charges were weak. So it’s not something that we were surprised when they decided to dismiss the rebellion charges against them,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a news briefing.
“I think that was the clamor before that–how can you even claim rebellion when the Ampatuans were allies of [then] President Arroyo at that time?…The definition of rebellion is very clear. It does not satisfy the definition of rebellion,” he said.
He said that as far as the Aquino administration is concerned, “What’s more important is the murder charges; the Maguindanao massacre; that’s where we are focused.”
Lacierda also noted that in contrast to the rebellion case filed against the Ampatuans, where evidence was weak, “the elements of murder were present in the Maguindanao massacre” and there are eyewitnesses to back up the charges. – Rappler.com