Detained Ampatuans flown to Manila from GenSan, Davao to face murder charges

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 April) – After four months and ten days’ detention in a military hospital here, the Ampatuan patriarch; three of his sons and a son-in-law detained in General Santos , all of them used to flying business class, were reunited on board a C-130 military cargo aircraft en route to Manila at 6:40 p.m. Friday. Sheriff Nestor Rivera flew to General Santos City from Manila this morning to serve the commitment order issued by Regional Trial Court 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes on the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the custodian of suspended ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan; suspended Shariff Aguak Mayor Anwar Ampatuan; former Maguindanao Vice Governor and later OIC Governor Sajid Islam Ampatuan; and former Mamasapano mayor later Maguindanao vice governor Akmad Ampatuan, to transfer them to Taguig in Metro Manila to face the murder charges against them.

From General Santos, the Sheriff traveled three hours by land to Davao City to serve the commitment order on the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), custodian of the patriarch, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.

The Ampatuans are facing murder charges in connection with the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao that left at least 58 persons dead, 32 of them from the media.

The victims were mostly from a convoy from Buluan, Maguindanao en route to the provincial office of the Commission on Elections in Shariff Aguak when stopped along the highway of Ampatuan town by a around a hundred men believed led by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr.

Andal, Jr.. was turned over the Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza and EastMinCom chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer on November 23, 2009 at the capitol grounds in Shariff Aguak , was flown to General Santos City for turn over to the National Bureau of Investigation and then Justice Undersecretary Agnes Devanadera.

Ferrer was in Manila so the commitment order was served by the sheriff to Brig. Gen. Cesario Atienza, deputy EastMinCom chief, at around 5 p.m. at the office of the Commander on the second floor while Ampatuan’s lawyers Philip Pantojan and Alexis Lumbatan were waiting at the reception area on the ground floor.

The lawyers and the media, many of them waiting near the hospital, did not know the Sheriff had arrived, served and left the headquarters until Col. Yerson Depayso, EastMinCom Chief of Unified Command Staff, got to the ground floor and was asked by MindaNews if the sheriff who was going to serve the commitment order, had arrived. Depayso said the sheriff arrived about ten minutes earlier to serve the order “and left.

As it turned out, the sheriff’s party took the back door.

Petition for Review

Atty. Philip Pantojan. Photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
Atty. Philip Pantojan. Photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Earlier, at noon, the patriarch’s lawyer, Pantojan, told reporters they had yet to receive a copy of the commitment order and that one of their lawyers in Manila went to the court of Judge Reyes “but was not given a copy.”

Pantojan. MindaNews photo by COArguillas

Pantojan said they have a petition for review pending since 30 days ago before the Department of Justice. The DOJ is 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.

Pantojan told MindaNews that he would “try my best” to stop the transfer. “How?” MindaNews asked.

“I will cite the law,” he said.

CIDG team arrival

At least four members of the CIDG entered the EastMinCom building at 3:30 p.m.

Pantojan and a relative of Andal entered the building at 3:32 p.m.

At 3:54 p.m. when Pantojan learned by phone that the detainees in General Santos were already on their way to the airport there, he stood up to say he would “tell the old man” (referring to Ampatuan) to have his doctor check if he were fit to travel.

The hospital is just a few meters away from the EastMinCon, at the next block.

Pantojan returned to the EastMinCom lobby five minutes later and was joined there by Atty Lumbatan.

Shortly before 5 p.m., a relative of the Ampatuans arrived at the lobby to say the DOJ had “dismissed the murder charges against Zaldy andAkmad Ampatuan” and that a copy had been brought to the General Santos City airport.

The alleged dismissal could not be confirmed but both Zaldy and Akmad, however, still boarded the plane.

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

Hospital scene

After Atienza’s lobby press briefing, military officials and the media proceeded to the hospital for the departure.

MindaNews photo by COArguillas

Two members of the CIDG entered the hospital at 5:44 p.m. Ampatuans’ lawyers stood outside his door discussing the process while soldiers from EastMinCom and the 10th ID waited at the reception area and outside the hospital.

At one point, Pantojan was in a huddle with the chiefs of staff of the EastMinCom and the 10th ID.

By 6:03 p.m., a total of six bags had been brought out of the room of Ampatuan, his home for four months and ten days.

Atienza (r), Holganza (l). MindaNews photo by COArguillas

At 6:16 p.m. Brig. Gen. Atienza and 10th ID chief Maj. Gen. Carlos Holganza entered the hospital, stayed by the entrance, then left.

By 6:20 p.m, Ampatuan Sr., was wheeled out of his room, and transferred to a waiting vehicle through the hospital’s seaside exit. From there he was transported to the old airport where a waiting C-130 received Ampatuan, the camp’s doctor and nurse, lawyer Lumbatan, among others.

Inside the aircraft, the father and sons and son-in-law were reunited after more than four months.

At 6:40 p.m., the military cargo aircraft carrying the Ampatuans, took off. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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