Rebellion case vs Ampatuan Sr. dismissed

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2010 04:01 PM | Updated as of Mar 30 2010 05:59 PM

MANILA, Philippines (Update 1) - A court in the Philippines has dismissed rebellion charges against a powerful Muslim clan accused of being behind an election-linked massacre of 57 people, the justice secretary said Monday.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Vivencio Baclig cited lack of probable cause in dismissing the case.

The court has also issued a release order, but Ampatuan Sr. and 6 other members of the Ampatuan clan will remain under state custody as they still face multiple murder charges in connection with the Maguindanao massacre last year where 57 people, including media men, lawyers, and members of their rival political clan, the Mangudadatus, were killed.

"It is the position of the Department of Justice that the accused remain in detention since probable cause was found in the murder charges filed against them," Justice Secretary Alberto Agra told radio dzMM.

Agra said the government intended to appeal the lower court ruling or even bring it to the Court of Appeals.

The Ampatuans are accused of orchestrating the killing of 57 people in the strife-torn southern province of Maguindanao in November last year to stop a rival politician from running against a clan member in national elections.

The patriarch of the clan, Andal Ampatuan Snr, was then the governor of Maguindanao. He was grooming a son and namesake to succeed him in the elections to be held in May this year.

The wife and a pregnant sister of the rival politician, along with 32 journalists travelling with the relatives to register his candidacy for Maguindanao governor, were among the victims.

Ampatuan Snr and four of his other sons were among 24 people charged with rebellion in December for allegedly trying to rise up against the government.

President Gloria Arroyo imposed martial law for nine days after the massacre, saying the move was necessary because the Ampatuans had tried to use their own private army of 3,000 militiamen in the alleged rebellion.  With Agence France-Presse