GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/2 Feb) – Families of journalists killed in the infamous massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao hailed Wednesday the Court of Appeals decision junking the petition of the Ampatuan patriarch, former Governor Andal S. Ampatuan Sr., to be excluded from the multiple murder charges.
Myrna Reblando, vice chairperson of the Justice Now Movement (JNM), the association of the media victims’ families, said evidences were strong that Ampatuan played a hand in the massacre that killed 57 people, 31 of them media workers. (The 58th victim was supposedly Reynaldo Momay, a photographer of Midland Courier, whose body remains missing.)
“We welcome the decision of the court denying his request. He has been directly implicated in the massacre by a witness,” said Reblando, wife of Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro “Bong” Reblando.
She also noted that Ampatuan purportedly played a crucial role through the discovery of the backhoe owned by the Maguindanao provincial government at the massacre site intended to bury and hide the crime.
Ricardo Cachuela, JNM chairperson, said they are also happy that Ampatuan was not excluded from the massacre case.
“We wish that the arraignment for him and the others will follow,” Cachuela said.
Maria Priscilla Reblando-Zainal, daughter of the slain reporter, stressed that Ampatuan should rot in jail.
“He must not be excluded in the multiple murder charges. He was part of the planning as testified by a witness,” Zainal told MindaNews.
Without the “blessing” of the Ampatuan patriarch, Zainal said the gory crime that shocked the world would not have happened.
Ampatuan, in effect, is the “mastermind of that massacre,” she stressed.
Lakmudin Saliao, reportedly a longtime househelp of the Ampatuans, earlier testified that the clan patriarch was “on top of the whole thing.”
Ampatuan’s request to be excluded from the massacre case was junked Monday by the Court of Appeals’ Special 11th Division.
“After a careful scrutiny of the records of this case, we find and so hold that there is no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the Department of Justice.… On this note, the petitioner’s main petition, as well as the supplemental petition, must therefore necessarily fail for lack of merit,” portions of the 27-page decision read.
Associate Justice Noel Tijam penned the decision and concurred by Associate Justices Antonio Villamor and Amy Lazaro-Javier.
Ampatuan is currently detained at a maximum prison facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, along with son Andal U. Ampatuan Jr., the former mayor of Datu Unsay town who allegedly led the more than 100 gunmen in brutally killing the victims.
Other clan members in detention in connection with the massacre are Zaldy Ampatuan (suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), former Shariff Aguak mayor Anwar Ampatuan, former Maguindanao vice governor Sajid Ampatuan and former Mamasapano mayor Akmad Ampatuan.
The Ampatuan town massacre was the worst election-related violence in the country and the largest single deadly attack against the media anywhere else.
Former Buluan vice mayor Esmael G. Mangudadatu had sent his wife and several relatives to file his certificate of candidacy for governor when flagged down and eventually slaughtered in Ampatuan town. The media workers were there to cover the filing.
Mangudadatu eventually won the gubernatorial race. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)