DAYS before the scheduled verdict on the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre is set to be handed down, defendant former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan was ordered returned to his detention cell from the hospital where he has been recuperating after suffering a stroke in October.
Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, in a three-page order dated December 16 but released only on Tuesday, denied Ampatuan’s bid to have his stay at the Makati Medical Center, where he is undergoing physical therapy, extended.
In denying the request, Solis-Reyes cited Ampatuan’s medical abstract and/or discharge summary showing that he is already stable with no more complaints of dizziness and headache.
The medical report likewise indicated that the accused is ambulatory and that his lower extremities are stronger than his upper limbs.
“This being the case, the court finds that there is no longer need for accused-movant to remain in the hospital as the procedure during rehabilitation session can be done to him as an out-patient,’” the order read.
“Although the procedure of rehabilitation exercises are not expressly stated in the medical abstract, what is clear is that, accused movant is merely continuing medical management and rehabilitation to maximize the residual function and improve his strength,” it added.
The judge directed the jail warden of Quezon City Jail-Annex at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City to immediately bring back the former governor to jail.
Ampatuan had earlier said his return to his detention cell will be prejudicial to his health because an alleged recent doctor examination showed that he suffered another “acute infarct” or stroke.
Ampatuan had a stroke in October 22 and was initially brought to the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital before he was transferred to the MMC. Last month, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology informed the court that Ampatuan was already undergoing therapy.
Government prosecutors have opposed Ampatuan’s continued hospital stay, expressing concern that he might attempt to escape while in confinement to evade his conviction.
In the same order, Solis-Reyes denied the request of Ampatuan that he be accompanied by two of his lawyers, Kristine Esguerra and Andre De Jesus, during the promulgation of the verdict on the case scheduled on December 19.
She cited the ‘limited space” of the makeshift courtroom inside the Quezon City Jail-Annex where the verdict will be read.
Ampatuan is facing multiple murder charges in connection with the decade-old Maguindanao massacre in which 58 people were killed, including 32 print and broadcast journalists.
Aside from the former ARMM governor, the other principal accused in the case are his brothers former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Sajid Islam Ampatuan.
Their father, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. who is also among those charged, died in 2015 while under detention due to a lingering illness.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the prosecution has done its best to secure the conviction of the accused in the murder cases.
“I have no idea as to how it will go but what I can say is that the prosecution presented all that it can. It did its best. As to how the judge will appreciate the evidence, I am not sure about that so let’s go through and see,” Guevarra said.
The reading of the verdict is scheduled at 9 a.m. on December 19, Thursday, inside the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Meanwhile, the lawyer representing victims of the massacre case claimed on Tuesday that she was offered P300 million to drop the controversial case.
Lawyer Nena Santos said the offer was made a year after the massacre was committed. She declined, though, to give additional details from whose camp the offer came from.
“It was, leave the case and it’s yours. I think they were able to decipher that they had to remove me from the case. They knew who is handling the overall strategy, the witnesses to be presented,” Santos said on ANC’s Headstart, adding: “I think their strategy is to remove the main legal strategist.”
Santos is the lawyer of former Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangudadatu, who lost his wife, Bai Genalyn, and several other relatives in the massacre, as well as several of the families of the victims.
Santos said several families of the victims also received similar offers of hefty sums of money in return for dropping the case.
She said the killings in Maguindanao and not just the massacre took place because of the Ampatuan’s control over the security forces and the political arena in the province.
“There were already so many killings in Maguindanao allegedly perpetrated by the Ampatuan clan but the people who were victims are afraid to file a case because of the fear of how powerful the clan is,” she said.