40 suspects in Maguindanao massacre cleared by DOJ

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    THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted only eight out of 48 more suspects included in the second batch of complaints filed against alleged perpetrators of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case which left 58 people dead, including 38 print and broadcast journalists.

    Private prosecutor Nena Santos aired the private prosecution’s sentiment in an online forum of the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network where families, friends and supporters commemorated the 11th anniversary of the massacre.

    Santos expressed alarm and concern that state prosecutors found probable cause to charge only the eight, as she noted that even the accused who did not file their counter-affidavits were cleared by the DOJ.

    “I feel like the DOJ now is not on our side, that they just granted me the eight and cleared the 40 when the 40 can be convicted based on the testimony of the witnesses,” complained Santos, who is serving as lawyer of former Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangudadatu and several of the massacre victims.

    Santos questioned why the private prosecution only received a copy of the resolution last month when the complaint was resolved by the DOJ on August 28, 2019 with the copies released on September this year. The complaints against the second batch of accused were filed before the DOJ in 2015.

    The eight suspects indicted for murders are Datu Harris Ampatuan Macapending, Datu Moning Ampatuan Asim, Mauin Upam, Rene Upam, Dali Kamendan alias Kumander Boy, Datu Diego Mamalapat, Daud Kamendan alias Kumander Kuatro and a certain “Biton” from the Philippine National Police.

    Government prosecutors said the eight attended meetings where the plan to kill the members of the Mangudadatu clan was made and likewise participated in the actual shooting of the victims on November 23, 2009.

    The resolution was signed by Assistant State Prosecutors Maryjane Sytat, Jovyanne Santamaria, Loverhette Jeffrey Villordon and Josie Cristina Dugay and approved by Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.

    Of the 40 who were absolved, the biggest name is incumbent Cotabato City mayor Cynthia Guiani Sayadi, who was accused for allegedly attending the meeting where the cover-up of the crime was supposedly planned. Also absolved were several aides of Andal Ampatuan Sr.
    Andal Sr. was included in the first batch of suspects charged in connection with the massacre but he died in 2015 while in detention due to a lingering illness.

    In junking the complaints against Sayadi and the 39 others, the state prosecutors said that while they may have attended some of the supposed meetings, they did not take part in the actual killings of the victims.

    Santos said she had already moved for a partial reconsideration of the resolution as she argued that there was implied conspiracy in the action of the respondents absolved by the prosecutors.

    Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes last year convicted dozens of respondents in the massacre. Santos said the Ampatuans have appealed the trial court’s ruling with the Court of Appeals.

    Santos said 76 suspects from the first case are still at large.

    PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas said some of the Maguindanao suspects who remain at large have already fled the country. Earlier reports said the missing suspects included at least 10 policemen.

    In a press briefing at the PNP national headquarters in Camp Crame, Sinas assured the public that the police force is doing its best to arrest all the remaining suspects. – With Victor Reyes