MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Ampatuan clan who were found guilty of planning and executing the gruesome 2009 massacre in Maguindanao are heading to the Court of Appeals (CA) to contest their convictions.
In a notice served to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 on Thursday, Brothers Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan said they will take the case to the appellate court, and asked the lower court to forward all of the case records to the CA for review and proceedings.
Their relatives Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Sr. and his sons Datu Anwar Jr and Anwar Sajid have filed separate motions for reconsiderations before the Quezon City court, urging Judge Solis-Reyes to review the decision due to the alleged loopholes in the testimony of some witnesses.
On December 19, Judge Solis-Reyes handed down a guilty verdict to some members of the political Ampatuan clan for their involvement in the murder of 57 people, including members of the media.
Originally, there were 58 victims in the massacre but the 58th person, photographer Reynaldo Momay of the local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after his body was not found in the scene.
The ambush happened when 32 members of the media were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.
Six of the victims were not part of the Mangudadatu supporters and the media convoy.
The Ampatuan massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, in a separate motion, Zaldy Ampatuan asked the QC court to allow his transfer to the infirmary of the New Bilibid Prison “to receive therapy, rehabilitation and medication prescribed by his doctors, and so as not to unduly put his health in jeopardy.
His lawyers said the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government have suffered three strokes in two months, and has hypertension, diabetes and chronic atrial fibrillation.
Zaldy Ampatuan had been confined to a hospital in Makati from October to December. He was ordered by the court to return to his detention facility a day before the Ampatuan case promulgation.
Mangudadatu, on the other hand, said he is not surprised by the legal moves that the Ampatuans are employing following the promulgation.
“Expected namin yan pero kung magkaroon man ng final conviction kumbaga dapat sa panahon na yan may bitay na para hindi na tularan itong ganitong klaseng gawain,” he said.
He also expressed confidence that evidence against the Ampatuans are airtight and that the appellate court will not grant their appeals. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)
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