Andal Sr pleads not guilty to Maguindanao massacre


Posted at Jun 01 2011 10:15 AM | Updated as of Jun 02 2011 12:44 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. on Wednesday pled not guilty to 57 counts of murder in connection with the Maguindanao massacre last Nov. 23, 2009.

Ampatuan, alleged mastermind of the massacre, was arraigned Wednesday at the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa.

Members of the Ampatuan clan are among the accused in 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.

Sigfrid Fortun, lawyer of the Ampatuan patriarch, earlier filed a motion asking Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes that Andal Sr. and his son, Sajid, be arraigned on May 25.

Lawyer Harry Roque, who represents media victims of the massacre, said the delayed arraignment of Ampatuan is evidence of a dysfunctional justice system in the Philippines.

"Andal Sr¹s arraignment was made possible only because he voluntarily agreed to it. Never mind that the prosecution has had a pending motion to have all the accused in custody to be arraigned. The Court has not acted on this motion. This is alarming because seemingly, it was not the rules that compelled Andal Sr to enter a plea. On the contrary, it was only because he agreed to it- as if an accused can now rewrite the rules to suit his ends," he said in a statement.

Roque said the elder Ampatuan's decision to be arraigned is intended to deflect public attention away from the controversy surrounding the petition for reviews filed by Andal¹s sons in the Court of Appeals.

He noted that Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo revealed that at least P200 million circulated in the high court to effect the release of at least one of Andal¹s sons.