MANILA (UPDATE) - A Pasig City court on Friday convicted several members of terrorist group Abu Sayyaf over the mass kidnapping of teachers and students in Basilan in 2000.
The Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 261 found 66 Abu Sayyaf members guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the March 20, 2000 abduction of 52 students and teachers from the Tumahubong Elementary School and Claret School in Sumisip town.
The convicts were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Twenty others were, meanwhile, acquitted.
Of those convicted, 29 were found guilty of 52 counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, 1 guilty of 44 counts, 10 guilty of 41 counts, 12 guilty of 18 counts, 3 guilty of 11 counts, and 11 guilty of 7 counts of the same offense.
Each of the convicted Abu Sayyaf members was also ordered to pay the heirs of the victims P180,000 for every count of conviction.
It can be recalled that at the height of the abduction, actor Robin Padilla even went to the Abu Sayyaf hideout to ask them to release the victims, especially the children.
The bandits first released 18 hostages back then in exchange for 200 sacks of rice.
Among those kidnapped was priest Rhoel Gallardo and 3 teachers who were found dead in May 2000.
Abu Sayyaf leaders Khadaffy Janjalani, Abu Sabaya and Isnilon Hapilon were among those originally charged but have since died.
Their names were no longer included on the list of those convicted because under Philippine criminal law, death extinguishes criminal liability.
Also charged was Hector Janjalani, who is currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, but his name was not on the list of convicted Abu Sayyaf members.
The names of 2 convicts and another person who was acquitted were redacted by the court in its decision.
According to Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, another judgment is due to be promulgated after Christmas, which explains why the names were redacted.
- reports from Mike Navallo and Dexter Ganibe, ABS-CBN News