DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 11 January) – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is “appalled” at the court’s decision to grant bail to Sajid Islam Ampatuan, one of the accused perpetrators of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre, and the youngest son of Andal Ampatuan, Sr.
“While we may understand last year’s grant of bail to 41 policemen accused of the slaughter that claimed the lives of 58 persons, including 32 of our colleagues, we find it incredulous that a key member of the clan whose presence at the meetings during which the massacre was planned has been established could be accorded the same privilege,” the NUJP said in a statement.
“These meetings were basically clan councils in which, as is common in Filipino culture, silence means consent. And it is stretching credulity to think that Sajid Islam, who was then acting Maguindanao governor, had absolutely no participation in the planning and execution of what was obviously a major operation in his domain, involving a veritable army of retainers and police personnel,” the NUJP said.
Sajid ran for vice governor while his father, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., ran for governor in the elections of 2007. The patriarch resigned in January 2009. Sajid assumed the post of OIC Governor immediately after but in mid-November 2009, in what turned out to be his last press conference, then ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, in response to a reporter’s query on who really was the OIC Governor, said it was his father, Andal Ampatuan, Sr.
The Philippine Star reported on January 10 that Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, through a 12-page omnibus order, granted bail to Sajid but denied the bail petition of his elder brother Anwar Ampatuan, Sr., and son-in-law of Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan.
The judge set the bail for P200,000 per murder count or a total of 11.6 million for the 58 victims.
The NUJP statement noted that with the vast resources amassed by the Ampatuan, the bail of 11.6 M bail for Sajid is “peanuts to the family.”
The NUJP said it was “utterly dismaying” Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes’ observation that the prosecution panel failed to establish strong enough evidence to ensure Sajid Islam’s continued detention over the course of the trial.
“This can only mean that those tasked and, more important, pledged to ensure justice for the victims of the worst incident of electoral violence in the country’s recent history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever, have betrayed their mandate,” the NUJP said.
“Is it any wonder why, more than five years after this most heinous of crimes, justice remains a distant hope for the families of those who died?” it asked.
“We demand that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who has staked the title she now holds on the successful prosecution of the killers, to make good on her word,” the NUJP said. (MindaNews)