MANILA, Philippines - An appellate court order freezing the assets of 28 Ampatuan clan members may have come a year and a half late, a lawyer representing some of the Maguindanao massacre victims said Wednesday.
Harry Roque, lawyer of the families of 14 Maguindanao massacre victims, said the 20-day freeze order from the Court of Appeals came after he sued members of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for not acting quickly enough to freeze the Ampatuans' assets after the massacre.
“We hope there is still something to freeze because more than 500 days have already passed since the massacre and it is only now that the AMLC chair, Armando Tetangco Jr., the Central Bank governor, finally lifted a finger – we fear that so much opportunity had already been lost," Roque said in a statement from the American University Washington College of Law, where he is teaching a short course on international human rights law.
Members of the Ampatuan clan, including its patriarch, are among the nearly 200 suspects in the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre that killed 58 people in Maguindanao.
Roque’s clients earlier filed a request with the AMLC for an investigation on the alleged money laundering activities of the Ampatuans.
Last month, Roque filed graft, dereliction of duty and administrative misconduct charges against Tetangco, former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairperson Fe Barin and Vida Chiong, acting Commissioner of the Insurance Commission for their inaction on the alleged alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Ampatuans.
Roque cited a Commission on Audit Report stating the misappropriation of some P1 billion in funds by Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan. “This fact alone, not counting the P386-million the clan patriarch allegedly gave away to bribe the loyalty and support of certain personalities already qualifies their crime as a clear case of plunder," he said.
The complainants said the AMLC could immediately ordered an investigation into the reported ill-gotten wealth of the Ampatuans.
“But more than 500 days have already passed since the Nov. 23, 2009 carnage in Ampatuan town but the AMLC has not taken any significant step to prevent the Ampatuans from hiding their ill-gotten wealth, not even with the subsequent filing by some of the Private Complainants late last year of a petition for the AMLC to do just that,” they said in their 30-page complaint.
“Their inaction without doubt contributed to the Ampatuans’ sense of invincibility, since they could violate the laws with impunity, and without fear of criminal consequences, because even a body as powerful as the AMLC could choose to look the other way in their case.”
The appellate court on Tuesday directed at least 24 banks, the PNP Firearms and Explosive Office, Land Transportation Office, Register of Deeds of Davao City, Maguindanao and Cotabato City to immediately freeze the family's assets including houses and lots, motor vehicles, and firearms.
The freeze order which shall last for a period of 20 days covers 28 respondents from the Ampatuan clan headed by patriarch and former Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., his wife Hadja Bai Laila Uy Ampatuan, former Mayor Datu Andal Uy Ampatuan Jr., suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao(ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Zaldy Uy Ampatuan, Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan and several others.
The CA ordered the agencies, banks, banking institutions and entitites covered in the freeze order to report within a period of 24 hours from receipt of the order "a detailed written return on the freeze order specifying all the pertinent and relevant information which shall include the account numbers, the names of the account owners or holders, the amount of the monetary instrument, property or related web of accounts as of the time they were frozen, all relevant information as to the nature of the monetary instrument or property subject of the freeze order, any information on the related web of accounts pertaining to the monetary instrument or property subject of the freeze order and the time when the freeze thereon took effect."