MANILA, Philippines – Former Maguindanao governor and clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr will not get temporary liberty after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 on Tuesday, April 21, denied his bail plea.
Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes found that the evidence of guilt against Ampatuan Sr is strong in connection with the Maguindanao massacre case – the Philippines' most gruesome election-related crime in recent years and the world's worst single attack against journalists. (READ: World awaits gov't action on Ampatuan massacre case)
Ampatuan Sr, along with his son, Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr, are the principal accused in the massacre of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao.
The Ampatuan clan was believed to have plotted the massacre to thwart the gubernatorial candidacy of rival Esmael Mangudadatu for the 2010 May elections. Mangudadatu won and is still the governor of Maguindanao.
In its decision, the court said it "appears that the accused himself called and presided over three meetings that had the agenda of killing persons to prevent Esmael Mangudadatu from pursuing his political plans."
"The said meetings contained details reminiscent of the scheme allegedly executed on November 23, 2009 – the use of numerous men, the utilization of firearms, the conduct of checkpoints, and the blocking of the convoy," said the decision.
The court said there was also evidence that Ampatuan Sr monitored the execution through "numerous phone and radio calls" and "supposedly also tried to orchestrate the escape of the men in Sitio Amasalay," as well as his own escape.
The development comes more than 5 years after the incident occurred. (INFOGRAPHIC: Maguindanao massacre case, 5 years on)
In January 2015, the court granted the bail plea of Ampatuan Sr's son, Sajid Islam. He was released from jail in March 2015 after posting an P11.6-million bail.
The court in 2014 also granted the bail petitions of 41 police officers accused of being involved in the crime. At least 197 individuals have been indicted over the massacre, with at least 86 still at large.
The slow pace of the Maguindanao massacre has been one of the sore points of the Aquino administration, according to a January 2015 Social Weather Stations survey.