SC: Zaldy Ampatuan included in murder case

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision ordering the inclusion of Zaldy Ampatuan in the Maguindanao massacre case.

The High Court's ruling against the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was made on June 25 but was only released on Thursday, July 5.

The Maguindanao massacre claimed the lives of 58 people in November 2009, mostly women and journalists. It is known as the worst election-related violence in Philippine history.

In its resolution, the Supreme Court rejected Ampatuan’s petition to reverse the Court of Appeals ruling affirming a justice department decision. The department ordered that Ampatuan be reinstated in the murder case.

“After a review of the records, the Court resolves to deny the petition for failure to show that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error in affirming the May 5, 2010 resolution of the Department of Justice,” said the Supreme Court.

The case is pending with a regional trial court in Quezon City.

The justice department under the previous Arroyo government had excluded Zaldy Ampatuan from the initial charge sheet.

The former ARMM governor is detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig. He belongs to what once was a powerful political clan that controlled Maguindanao. 

Ampatuan is accused of helping orchestrate the Maguindanao massacre along with his father, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr, and his brothers. His brother, Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr, is the prime suspect in the murder case.

Zaldy Ampatuan maintains he was not in Maguindanao when the murders were planned and carried out. Yet witnesses said he was present in meetings where the clan planned the killings. 

The crime was meant to stop then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s wife from filing a certificate of candidacy on his behalf. Mangudadatu intended to challenge Ampatuan Jr in the 2010 Maguindanao gubernatorial race.

Mangudadatu won as Maguindanao governor in 2010. 

PNoy understands victim’s wife

Earlier Thursday, President Benigno Aquino III said he understood the decision of the wife of a slain journalist to go on self-exile in Hong Kong.

Myrna Reblando, wife of the late Manila Bulletin reporter Bong Reblando, admitted that she decided to leave the Philippines for Hong Kong last year to protect her children. Mrs Reblando had campaigned for Aquino in 2010.

Aquino told reporters, “Mrs Reblando is really going through a lot and there is really frustration about the slow justice system …. She has kids, family that she needs to support and there is normalcy that she wants in her life.”

Aquino added, “What we are doing is not perfect but I think no one can say we have shortcomings in trying to seek justice.”

Aquino also responded to criticism that the government has not been protecting witnesses, many of whom have been killed.

“Witnesses have the right to refuse protection under the Witness Protection Program. We can ask them to be under the program but in the end, they are free and they have the right to decide what they think is best for their situation.” – Rappler.com