BANGKOK, Thailand - President Aquino on Friday said jail officials will be fired from their jobs if it is proven that former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., alleged mastermind of the Maguindanao massacre, received special treatment in jail.
Aquino said he has yet to see the alleged photos and video of the Ampatuan patriarch getting special treatment while in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
"I cannot comment on it because I haven't seen any of it. I haven't seen the picture or the purported video but definitely if that happened, then heads should roll . There should be no VIP treatment. I'm sure [DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo] will report to me when I get home," he said in a statement.
The President said he was informed before of the alleged VIP treatment of the Ampatuans, and that Justice Secretary Leila De Lima quickly acted on it.
"Ang alam ko nag-report sa akin for at least 3 or 4 instances na merong umabot sa kanyang ganoong report at pinuntahan niya (Robredo) not less than twice on a random day," he said.
"Si Secretary Leila de Lima is trying to determine whether or not information na tinatanggap ay tama o mali," he added.
Ampatuan is accused of masterminding the massacre of 58 people, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao province last Nov. 23, 2009. The victims were on their way to Shariff Aguak town to file the certificate of candidacy of now Gov. Toto Mangudadatu when their convoy was allegedly blocked at a checkpoint by police and militiamen of the Ampatuans.
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Mangudadatu on Thursday revealed pictures and a video that allegedly proved Ampatuan is enjoying special privileges inside the Quezon City Jail Annex.
The photos showed Ampatuan outside the jail cell while being massaged by another prisoner.
Another photo showed him with as many as 13 visitors, which violates the prison rule of only 3 visitors per inmate.
Another photo showed Ampatuan with one of his wives who was using a cellphone, violating the no-cellphone rule inside the jail.
Lawyer Harry Roque, meanwhile, said Ampatuan Sr. was also spotted dining at the Hotel Sofitel in Pasay City.
News of Ampatuan's VIP treatment prompted the DILG chief to suspend jail warden Glenford Valdepeñas and jail personnel in Camp Bagong Diwa. Valdepeñas was replaced by temporarily replaced by Senior Inspector Bernardino Edgar T. Camus, leader of the Special Tactics and Response Team.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, meanwhile, said the President has been apprised of reports about special privileges enjoyed by VIPs in prisons, including Andal Ampatuan, Sr.
"The President is aware of these reports already and that he has directed the Department of Justice, DILG and even the economic managers team. Yung doon sa naunang dalawang ahensya, to conduct the necessary investigation and recommend to improve the system and nagbigay po ng directives din sa economic managers [to find out] what else we can do in terms of funding," Valte said.
'Massacre case too slow'
The President said he is also concerned with how the legal process against the Ampatuans are ongoing.
"Mas concentrate kasi ako doon sa arraignment. Nagtatanong ako, 'Kelan pa for everybody?' Noong isang araw, nag-meeting din kami para malaman iyong status ng lahat ng pinaghuhuli pa. Over a hundred pa iyong nahabol, nabawasan ng dalawa. Doon sa dalawa, pero over a hundred pa rin ang natitira," he said.
He added: "Siyempre, iyong arraignment, iyong umpisa ng paglilitis mahabang panahon. Baka abutin ng anim na taon on an average. Hindi pa mag-uumpisa. Napakaimportante na mahuli iyong under accused."
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey earlier showed more than half of Filipinos were dissatisfied with the delays in the Maguindanao massacre case.
Conducted from March 4 to 7, the SWS poll showed 51% of Filipinos were dissatisfied with the way the case is being resolved, up from 46% in November last year.
The respondents who said they were satisfied with the government’s handling of the case dropped to 32% from 41%, while the number of undecided rose to 16% from 12%.
The Aquino administration received a negative net satisfaction rating, -19, on the issue of the prosecution of the massacre case, down by 14 points from the “neutral” of -5 recorded last November.
Three out of 4 respondents said the prosecution of the case against the accused Ampatuans was too slow, 21% said it was moving just fine, and 4% said the government was “too much in a hurry.”
The SWS found 47% of the respondents who claimed that the way the accused are being treated is “just right,” 39%, said it was “too lenient” and 13% called it “too harsh.”
At least 67% of Filipinos said they are following the case “very closely/somewhat closely.” With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News