MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is "dismayed" that Maguindanao massacre suspect Zaldy Ampatuan was allowed to leave jail so he could attend a daughter's wedding, Malacañang said on Thursday, August 23.
"The Panel of Prosecutors and the President oppose the motion and we're dismayed it was granted," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a news briefing.
He also assured families of the massacre victims that the furlough granted to Ampatuan would have no bearing on his case.
"I can assure you this will not affect the case and I think you know why I can give that assurance," said Roque, who used to served as a lawyer of some of the victims' families.
Ampatuan was allowed to attend the wedding of his daughter Kristina on Tuesday, August 21. It was held in Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City. A video posted by Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali on Facebook shows him dancing with his daughter.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed to Rappler that he was asked by the in-laws of Kristina Ampatuan to be one of the wedding sponsors. But he said he declined the request and did not attend the wedding.
“Yes, I was asked by the Samama family to be godparent of the couple but I had to graciously excuse myself from attending because of prior engagement,” Medialdea said in a text message.
Ampatuan faces 58 charges of murder being the suspected mastermind of the massacre, called the single deadliest attack on journalists in history and the bloodiest case of election-related violence.
At the time of the massacre, Ampatuan was the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Witness accounts pinned him as present in meetings to plan the massacre, which was meant to prevent then Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu from filing his certificate of candidacy to challenge the gubernatorial bid of Zaldy's brother Andal Ampatuan Jr. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.