MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The son of former Maguindanao governor and clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr was released from jail on Monday, March 9, after posting an P11.6-million bail.
Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, a suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, posted bail two months after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 granted his appeal for temporary liberty and set his bail at P200,000 per murder count, or a total of P11.6 million for the 58 counts filed before the court.
In a 12-page order released in January, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes ruled that the prosecution failed to establish strong evidence that would warrant his continued detention while trial is ongoing.
Solis-Reyes said Sajid Islam was only present in the meetings but did not participate in alleged discussions that led to the massacre.
In the same order, Solis-Reyes denied the bail petitions of another Ampatuan son, Anwar Ampatuan Sr, and his son in law Akmad "Tato" Ampatuan.
In 2014, the court also allowed 17 policemen charged with murder over the 2009 Maguindanao massacre to post bail amounting to P11.6 million, corresponding to P200,000 for each of the 58 counts of murder filed against them.
The Ampatuan clan was believed to have plotted the Maguindanao massacre, which killed 58 individuals, including 32 journalists, to derail the political plans of rival Esmael Mangudadatu, incumbent governor of Maguindanao, for the 2010 elections.
It is the worst case of election-related violence in recent history. (INFOGRAPHIC: Maguindanao massacre case, 5 years on)
Of the 197 accused in the massacre, 15 belong to the Ampatuan clan, including principal accused Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr and his father, Andal Sr.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima immediately ordered the Prosecutor General to elevate the case to the Court of Appeals.
“I already gave instructions to the panel thru Prosecutor General Claro Arellano to avail of the proper remedy ASAP,” she said.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said it is “terribly disappointed” that the lower court allowed the release of Ampatuan on bail.
“As we predicted, securing the amount, which most Filipinos can only dream about, was easy for a member of a clan that had built vast wealth, much of it ill-gotten, during a decade of misrule over Maguindanao province,” the organization said in a statement.
Sajid was acting governor of the province when the massacred happened. This made the NUJP certain that he was “in on the murderous plot.” For him to be allowed to post bail “can only be attributed to the prosecution’s faulty presentation of its case” or “as part of some nefarious deal.”
“We demand that the DOJ get to the bottom of this and move quickly to repair the damage lest a miscarriage of justice in this case be added to the long litany of sins against press freedom and justice this administration has committed,” NUJP said. – Rappler.com