DOJ Drops Charges vs Two Massacre Suspects

DOJ Drops Charges vs Two Massacre Suspects

Mga aktibistang nagpapahayag laban sa makapangyarihang Ampatuan sa labas ng Department of Justice sa Maynila, Pilipinas sa Linggo, Abril 18, 2010. Ang mga Kagawaran ng Hustisya ay nagpapawang-sala sa pagpatay ng dalawang magkapatid na Ampatuan, dating gobernador Zaldy at Akhmad, na inakusahan ng pagpatay ng 57 kalaban sa pulitika at mamamahayag.

By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer

MANILA, Philippines– The Philippines’ Department of Justice has dropped murder charges against two members of a warlord clan accused in the massacre of 57 political rivals and journalists, sparking protests Sunday and bringing relatives of the victims to tears.

The Nov. 23 slaughter, which was condemned by the international community, was unprecedented even in a country known for election violence and political killings that have claimed hundreds of lives in the past decade.

Among the dead were more than 30 journalists and their staff — the deadliest known attack on media workers in the world. The killings elevated the Philippines to the top of a list of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists.

At least 198 suspects have been charged in court with multiple murder, including members of the powerful Ampatuan clan that has ruled over southern Maguindanao province for years. Several more suspects remain at large.

The Ampatuans have been close political allies of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for years, helping her win elections in 2004.

Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said he has ordered prosecutors to remove the names of Zaldy Ampatuan, a former governor of a Muslim autonomous region, and his brother-in-law Akhmad from the charge sheets for lack of strong evidence linking them to the planning and staging of the carnage in Maguindanao’s Ampatuan township.

“There is no evidence to prove conspiracy and there is evidence to support their alibi,” Agra told The Associated Press.

Zaldy Ampatuan provided cell phone bills and airline tickets showing he was not at a Nov. 22 meeting where the killings were allegedly planned, or at the crime scene the next day, Agra said. Akhmad presented witnesses and pictures showing he was at a medical mission when the killings occurred, he said.

However, Agra rejected petitions from the principal suspect, former Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., and his father, Andal Ampatuan Sr., to be cleared of the murder charges. Witnesses have testified seeing Andal Ampatuan Jr. leading gunmen in killing the unarmed victims as they pleaded for their lives.

Prosecutors have filed murder charges against the Ampatuans in a Quezon City court. The justice secretary must ask the court to approve his decision to drop charges against Zaldy and Akhmad.

Several relatives of the victims wept after learning of Agra’s decision, according to Harry Roque, a lawyer for the victims, adding that they plan to appeal the ruling.

“They wept not only for this injustice but also out of fear for their safety,” Roque said. “They cannot sleep now that the Ampatuans are being cleared.”

Several student activists protested outside the Department of Justice, carrying placards that called Arroyo and the department “coddlers of murderers.”

A media watchdog, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, blamed Arroyo and Agra “for this massacre of … justice, the rule of law, our basic rights and democracy.”

The indictment says the clan leaders conspired to ambush and kill members of the rival Mangudadatu family and their supporters, who were gunned down on a hilltop in Maguindanao. The attack apparently was aimed at preventing a Mangudadatu politician from challenging the Ampatuans’ control of the province in a gubernatorial election in next month.

The Ampatuans have denied the charges, and most of their armed followers have fled a massive crackdown in the province, about 560 miles (900 kilometers) south of Manila. Thousands of militiamen loyal to the clan are still in hiding, triggering sporadic clashes with government troops.

Last month, another court dismissed separate rebellion charges against the Ampatuan patriarch, four of his sons and several followers for lack of evidence. They had been accused of plotting an uprising after the government launched a crackdown on the clan when it was linked to the killings.


**Resigned Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera received death threats during her incumbency.

**Alberto Agra served as the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo laywer during impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives in 2006.

**The Ampatuans are close political allies of PGMA.

We Filipinos are not as ‘tanga’ as they think we are! The innocence of these two suspects must be tried and decided by the courts of law and not by an office under the President. As I strongly condemned the Maguindanao Massacre, I likewise strongly condemned the Department of Justice for this move.

“There is no evidence to prove conspiracy and there is evidence to support their alibi,” Agra told The Associated Press but “Witnesses have testified seeing Andal Ampatuan Jr. leading gunmen in killing the unarmed victims as they pleaded for their lives.” Where are the testimonies of these witnesses? Are they gone with Devanadera?


Read also:
DOJ wants 2 Ampatuans freed; media, families hold protests

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27 comments on “DOJ Drops Charges vs Two Massacre Suspects

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  9. my friends and relatives wore black yesterday, Tuesday, in protest for this distorted decision on the two Ampatuans..

    As far as i know, the DOJ Secretary’s job is to review existing cases or cases already decided on and recommend, RECOMMEND ONLY, pag-sure oi…!!!!! The secretary has no business releasing anyone especiallyif the case is being heard still…Nagtaka pa tayo? hindi ba may narelease sa Muntinlupa na isang death convict…? utos din ng Malacañang at DOJ un na sunod-sunuran, si Raul Gonzales pa un…so scott free na ung mknow what? ang nag-suffer ng consequence ay iyong superintendent na nag-release..di nya alam bakit pinabayaan sya. sumunod lang sya sa utos ng nakakataas….

    it is very clear…election-related yang pagpapalabas sa 2 Ampatuan na yan…the nerve pa Andal, indorsing Noynoy Aquino!!!!!!!!!another black propaganda yan…stupid tlga the people behind them…as stupid and as ugok…..naka video na Andal was using the band of Villar on his wrist…ka-ugok nyo lahat na promotor nito….!!!!!!!!!!!!

    But God, Who hears every prayer, will hear our prayers and give judgment at the most appointed time. EVIL will never prosper…


  10. grabe talaga, napanuod ko po ung news tungkol dito. Nakakainis na nakakakilabot. The DOJ sec is talking about evidences to prove the Ampatuan’s innocence and alibis. Well, what about those evidences that proved that they were guilty? Adik ba sila, tsk, tsk,


    • talagang grabe, kaibigang aubu22. aasahan na nating nagkakaroon ng malakihang pagpo-protesta. pati mga prosecutors (piskal) ay handang humarap sa mga cosequences sa kanilang di pagsang-ayon sa desisyon ng kanilang head.

      maraming salamat sa pagdalaw…


  11. yun na nga, rllqph. alibi ang pinagbasehan ng kasalukuyang DOJ para gawing inosente ang mga suspek. ibang-iba sa pinanindigan ni Devanadera.

    ang hustisyang ating hinahanap ay dapat manggaling sa ating mga korte ngunit dahil sa hakbang na ito, hindi na sila (mga suspek) maaaring maihabla.

    “The justice secretary must ask the court to approve his decision to drop charges against Zaldy and Akhmad.” ito na lang ang tanging paraan. sana ang mga huwes sa mga korteng ito (sa Quezon City) ay hindi mababayaran.

    sa ngayon, may katanungang naglalaro sa isipan ko. ano kaya ang magiging kapalit sa hakbang na ito ng DOJ? o magkano? DOJ lang ba ang makikinabang?


  12. hi doroastig.

    para sa akin, hindi sapat ang dahilan ng mga dalawang kumag na ampatuan para mapalaya sila. sabi nga ng depensa, alibi is the weakest form of defense, and i agree to that… because alibi lang naman talaga ang sinabi ng naging basehan nila.

    bakit, hindi ba sila pwede mag-utos ahead of time o sumuporta sa mga kamag-anak nila para sa plano nilang pagpatay?

    puta, marami silang pinatay, worst, binaon pa nila ang mga pinatay nila at naghanda talaga sila ng hukay para sa mga iyon. imposibleng isa o dalawang tao lang ang may pakana niyan.

    totoo nga… never kang makakakuha ng hustisya sa bansang ito o sa panahong ito. mga lecheng galamay ni GMA talaga oh.


  13. atty. harry roque called the office ‘department of injustice’.

    there will be a gathering of concerned people like us infront of the DOJ this 2pm. this will be led by NUJP. toto mangudadato flew from davao to participate.

    let’s be vigilant…

    thanks for the immediate comment. this shows that you are very much concerned about this issue…


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