Agra order issued Friday, not Saturday

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/18 April) — Manila-based newspapers and online publications say Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra “on Saturday” issued the order clearing Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan of the multiple murder charges for lack of probable cause.

Manila-based DOJ reporters got their story through telephone interview with Agra, who was in Baguio. As of Sunday, no newspaper or online publication has published a copy of the alleged order or quoted portions of the ruling.

The quotations were all based on Agra’s interview.

The Ampatuan camp, however, learned about – even anticipated – the order on Friday, the day the commitment order was served on the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in General Santos City, custodian of the Ampatuan siblings Zaldy, Anwar and Sajid and brother in law Akmad; and on the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), custodian of the Ampatuan patriarch, Datu Andal Ampatuan,Sr. to transfer them to Camp Bicutan in Taguig, Rizal, to face the charges of multiple murder.

On Friday noon, the patriarch’s lead lawyer in Mindanao, Philip Pantojan, told MindaNews he would “try my best” to stop the transfer of his client to Manila.

“How?” MindaNews asked.

“I will cite the law,” he said.

He told reporters they had a petition for review pending since 30 days ago before the Department of Justice (DOJ) and that the DOJ was supposed to look into it within 60 days. “The DOJ has not resolved the petition for review.”

He said they filed “a lot of motions,” including one on the determination of probable cause in the case for murder.

Shortly before 5 p.m., a relative of the Ampatuans arrived at the lobby of the EastMinCom where Pantojan and another lawyer, Alexis Lumbatan, were waiting, to say the DOJ had “dismissed the murder charges against Zaldy andAkmad Ampatuan” and that a copy had been rushed to the General Santos City airport, where the four detained Ampatuans were waiting for the C-130 cargo aircraft from Zamboanga City.

“Nakahabol pa” (The order reached them), he said.

The relative added somebody should have informed Congressman Simeon Datumanong much earlier. Datumanong, former Justice Secretary, is an Ampatuan (Simeon Ampatuan Datumanong).

The alleged “dismissal” could not be confirmed then. But it also did notstop the transfer of Zaldy and Akmad.

They still boarded the plane for Davao, where they were reunited with their father. The plane immediately took off for Manila at 6:40 p.m. as soon as the patriarch entered.

As it turned out, the “dismissal” the relative was referring to was the Agra order that found no probable cause to prosecute Zaldy and Akmad.
(Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)