THE verdict on the 58 counts of murder charges filed against former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.; his brother, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and 101 others in connection with the nine-year-old Maguindanao massacre case, will soon be handed down after the Quezon City court handling the cases had already terminated the trials.
A source from the sala of Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 221 told People’s Tonight that the promulgation of the cases might be handed down either in the early part or middle of 2019 since the court is now only waiting for the prosecution and the camp of principal accused, Andal Jr. to submit their respective memorandum.
Records from the court disclosed that aside from Andal Jr., all of the 102 accused, including Zaldy, had already submitted their respective memorandum, which is the final document that the prosecution as well as the defense to submit in court.
The memorandum being submitted by the prosecution to the court contains all the evidence, be it documentary and their witnesses, and the reasons why there’s a need to convict an accused while the defense’s memorandum also contains the evidence for the accused and the reasons why an accused must be acquitted.
Court records disclosed that there are at least 197 charged for the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre wherein 58 people, including 32 members of the media, were killed.
Of the 197 charged, 115 were already arrested. But out of the 115 arrested, four of the accused, including clan patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr., died while in detention; the cases of six other accused were dismissed due to lack of evidence, and two accused were turned into state witnesses.
Among those arrested, nine are surnamed Ampatuan, 48 are members of the municipal local police stations in Maguindanao and the rest are mostly members of the Civilian Volunteer Organizations and CAFGUs.
It will be recalled that members of the Ampatuan clan were simultaneously arrested few days after the gruesome massacre and the court started the formal trial of the cases in January 2010.
Following the massacre, former President now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had declared martial law in Maguindanao which prompted the immediate arrest of those involved in the incident.
The prosecution panel has described the incident as the “worst crime ever committed in the history of the Philippine justice system.”
The crime happened on a hilltop, in a forlorn area in Sitio Masalay, Bgy. Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, wherein the victims and their vehicles were buried in shallow graves dug using a backhoe owned by the provincial government of Maguindanao.
The victims led by Genalyn Mangudadatu, wife of now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, together with their supporters and the media, were about to file a certificate of candidacy for her husband when the incident took place.
A PT source, on the other hand, further disclosed that except for Andal Jr., all the 102 accused have already submitted their respective memorandum and are now waiting for the court to order for the setting of the promulgation of their cases.
The source added that the court is now waiting for the camp of Andal Jr. to submit his own memorandum before the court will schedule the handing down of the verdict.
“Gusto ni judge sabay-sabay na ang pagbaba ng hatol sa lahat ng mga akusado kaya hihintayin pa namin muna ’yung kay Andal Jr. and posibleng i-set ang promulgation pagpasok nitong taong 2019,” the source disclosed.
Meanwhile, in the memorandum submitted by the prosecution panel against accused Zaldy, they insisted that the accused must be convicted for the 58 counts of murder since he is equally guilty as those who actually killed the victims although he was not present during its commission.
“In fine, accused Zaldy Ampatuan’s guilt in these cases is strong. There is no denying that his defense of alibi has no leg to stand on. He failed to present clear and convincing proof to substantiate the same,” the prosecution added in its memorandum.
But in his own memorandum, the accused asked the court to acquit him since the prosecution failed to present single concrete piece of evidence strongly showing his guilt and there is overwhelming proof of his innocence.