Conviction of all accused in Maguindanao massacre remote, says ex-SC spokesman

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2019 11:38 AM | Updated as of Dec 19 2019 12:00 PM

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MANILA - A law professor on Thursday said that not all of the accused may be convicted for the 10-year-old bloody carnage of 58 people in what has been dubbed as the "Maguindanao Massacre."

"It might be remote that all of the accused who have been tried—101—will be found guilty. It would really depend on how the judge would appreciate the evidence that has been brought before her, and how the judge appreciates the characterization of the accused," said University of the Philippines law professor, Atty. Theodore Te.

On ANC's Headstart, Te said not all of those charged are accused as principals. Some have been charged as accomplices and accessories.

"Realistically, the judge may not be able to find proof beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of everyone. Proof beyond reasonable doubt is a very, very high burden. I would agree that maybe not everyone. There will certainly be some [of the accused] where the evidence will not be sufficient," said Te.

Of the 101 accused due for sentencing on Thursday, 90 are detained while Sajid Islam Ampatuan and 10 policemen are out on bail.

Eighty other suspects, including 15 bearing the surname Ampatuan, are still at large and won’t be among those sentenced Thursday.

The former spokesperson of the Supreme Court explained that Sajid and the others out on bail are required to be present during the promulgation.

"One of the conditions of their bail is that they have to be present when the court requires them to be present, and one of the mandatory appearances they have to make is during the promulgation," he said.

If they fail to appear, Te said they lose all their remedies, including the right to appeal.

"If he doesn't show up today and the court does not hear from him a good reason—and that is up to the appreciation of the court whether it's a good reason or not not to show up—then he loses his right to appeal if it's an unfavorable verdict. If he's convicted, he cannot appeal anymore," he said.

Facing verdicts are 101 out of a total 197 accused charged with 58 counts of murder, 1 for every person killed in the November 23, 2009 massacre. 

The accused are charged for an attack on a convoy of mostly journalists on their way to Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy (COC) of then-gubernatorial candidate and now-House Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.

Among those killed were Mangudadatu’s own wife and 2 sisters, and 12 other relatives and supporters, 2 lawyers and a father of one of the lawyers, 2 drivers, 6 passersby and 32 journalists.

"Given 101 accused who have been tried, I expect it to be a pretty long decision even the dispositive portion itself might be very long. My own count would be 30 pages, would be very short for a dispositve portion for 101 accused," he said.

If the entire decision is to be read, Te said it would probably take several hours. But if only the dispositive portion is read and depending on how fast it is read, then it may only take about 3 to 4 hours, he said.

"Any of the parties can ask for the whole decision be read. The general rule is that the entire decision should be read," he said.

But given the circumstances and high public interest, the judge may decide that she may want an executive summary of the entire decision to be read followed by the dispositive portion.