MANILA - The Court of Appeals has denied the bail petition of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre case.
The appellate court, in a decision dated April 18, 2018, affirmed the earlier decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 to keep Ampatuan in detention.
Ampatuan sought bail over 58 counts of murder in connection with the 2009 massacre.
"While there may be doubts as to [Ampatuan’s] overt act that may result in his criminal liability by reason of conspiracy, the presumption is great that he is probably guilty of the charges, therefore, bail should be refused,” the CA said.
“[W]hat the respondent judge really found and held was that the evidence of guilt presented against petitioner was strong and that this justified the denial of his pleas for bail,” it added.
A total of 58 people, including 32 media practitioners and female members of the Ampatuans' rival clan, the Mangudadatus, were killed in the massacre, known to be the single deadliest attack on journalists.
The Mangudadatus were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of then Maguindanao gubernatorial hopeful Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu when the killings occurred.
Apart from Ampatuan, 195 others were indicted, including his father and Ampatuan clan patriarch, then Maguindanao Governor Andal, Sr. who died in July 2015, and brother, then Datu Unsay Mayor Andal “Unsay,” Jr.
DOJ’S EVIDENCE DURING ZALDY AMPATUAN BAIL HEARINGS
The Department of Justice’s evidence against Ampatuan mainly came from the testimonies of Mangudadatu, Sukarno Badal, and Lakmodin Saliao.
Mangudadatu, former Vice-Mayor of Buluan town, testified that he met Ampatuan at the office of then Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, where he was asked to declare in front of Andal Sr. that he would not run for the province’s top post.
Sukarno Badal, then vice-mayor of Sultan Sararongis, testified that there were several meetings held by the Ampatuans prior to the mass killings. In the first meeting on July 20, 2009 attended by Ampatuan, his family, political advisers, and allies in Malate, Manila, the group discussed a plot to kill Mangudadatu “because of his persistence to run as governor of Maguindanao,” he said.
Badal said Zaldy Ampatuan uttered: “Todo suporta ako diyan, Ama (Andal, Sr.), dapat malinis ang pagkagawa. Dahil kung hindi, madudungisan ang pangalan ko at makukulong tayong lahat.”
(I am in full support of that father, the job should be done clean because if not, my name will be tainted and we will all be jailed.)
Badal also testified that another meeting took place on November 16, 2009 in Andal Sr.’s farm in Barangay Bagong, Shariff Aguak, attended by 400 persons, including Zaldy.
During the said meeting, Mangudadatu’s liquidation was planned and Zaldy reportedly said: “Todo suporta ako diyan, kahit lahat ng baril ko gagamitin ko."
(I am in full support of that, I will even use all of my guns.)
Saliao, a personal assistant of Andal Sr., testified about another meeting on November 17, 2009 at Zaldy’s house in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao “to discuss means to prevent Mangudadatu from filing his certificate of candidacy for governorship in Maguindanao.”
In the said meeting, Andal Jr. allegedly uttered: “Madali lang 'yan, Ama. Patayin sila lahat kapag pumunta sila dito (That is easy father. Let us kill them all when they go here.)"
To this, Zaldy allegedly responded: “Kung 'yan ang mapag-usapan, kailangan planuhin mabuti para hindi tayo mabisto (If we will agree on that, it should be planned well so that we will not be busted)."
Saliao also claimed that on December 4, 2009, when Andal Sr. decided to leave his mansion to escape due to the impending declaration of martial law in Maguindanao, Zaldy allegedly told Andal Sr. in the Maguindanaoan dialect: “Father, go back and I will be in charge to look for a way so that you will not be apprehended by [the] military.”
Saliao further testified that when Andal Sr. was in Camp Panacan, Davao City on March 29, 2010, Zaldy told Andal Sr. in Maguindanaoan: “Father, I will accept that it’s only Unsay (Andal Jr.) who did this because I'm suffering, I cannot take it to be inside the jail.”
In its decision, the appellate court said Zaldy’s claim that the DOJ failed to present evidence to establish that he took part in the alleged conspiracy is already a matter of defense best threshed out in a full-blown trial, not during the determination of the grant of bail.