MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice on Tuesday recommended the filing of 57 counts of murder against former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and 196 others linked to the gruesome massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao last November 23.
In a 78-page resolution, the DOJ eight-man panel of investigation prosecutors led by Senior State Prosecutor Leo Dacera said “the confluence of events before and immediately after” the massacre took place led them to conclude that Ampatuan Sr., his son Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Datu Zaldy “Puti” U. Ampatuan, Datu Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan, Sr., Datu Norodin Ampatuan, and Datu Jimmy Ampatuan connived with the actual perpetrators.
The panel said evidence on record showed that the respondents instigated the plan to ambush members of the Mangudadatu clan on their way to the office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Cotabato City to file the certificate of candidacy of Esmael Mangudadatu for the gubernatorial post in Maguindanao.
It said witnesses identified respondents Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr., Datu Kanor Ampatuan, Datu Bahnarin A. Ampatuan, Datu Mama Ampatuan, Datu Sajid Islam U. Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Jr., Datu Ulo Ampatuan, Datu Ipi Ampatuan, Datu Harris Ampatuan, Datu Moning Ampatuan, Mogira Hadji Anggulat, Parido Zangkala Gogo, Jun Pendatun, Kagi Faizal and Sukarno Badal as having directly participated in the massacre.
“These respondents were plainly pinpointed as among those who fired their high-powered firearms which consequently ended the lives of their intended victims. Positive identification of a person being implicated in a crime, when categorical, resounding, consistent, and without any ill motive on the part of the eyewitnesses testifying on the matter, is given credence. Considering such positive identification of these respondents as direct participants in the commission of the crime of murder, they should be indicted,” the DOJ said.
The DOJ panel said there is viable evidence to prove that some members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “dipped their fingers in the preparation and subsequent consummation of the despicable killing of the victims.”
“There is direct evidence that these respondents agreed to commit the crime. Their acts and the attendant circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime unveil a common aim that would make all of them co-principals in the crime committed. We can deduce from their communal conduct a common design, concerted action and concurrence of sentiments… All the conspirators are answerable as co-principals regardless of the extent or degree of their participation,” the resolution said.
Aside from the murder charges, Ampatuan Sr. and the 196 accused are also facing rebellion charges for allegedly mobilizing supporters to resist, defy and undermine security forces who were investigating the massacre last November.
Judge Vivencio Baclig of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 77 is currently conducting the hearing on the rebellion charges in Camp Crame. He is expected to rule on the defense lawyers' motion to stop the transfer of the suspects from Cotabato City to Manila.
Prosecutors asked the court to transfer the Ampatuans after the Supreme Court granted a petition seeking the transfer of the rebellion case from Cotabato City Regional Trial Court to Quezon City due to the Ampatuans' strong influence in the ARMM.
Andal Sr. is currently detained at the Camp Panacan Hospital in Davao City. Other Ampatuan clan members linked to the massacre were also arrested and confined in military camps.