Camp Bagong Diwa on lockdown for Maguindanao massacre case promulgation

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – The Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City has been placed on security lockdown beginning Wednesday, or a day before the much-anticipated promulgation of the verdict on the Maguindanao massacre case.

Philippine National Police Spokesperson Brigadier General Bernard Banac said police forces in Taguig City have also been placed on heightened alert to prepare for any eventuality that may occur during the case promulgation.

The ruling for the multiple murder charges against over 100 suspects – including members of the Ampatuan clan – will be released by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 on Thursday, Dec. 19 at the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa.

“Ang PNP ay naka-alerto at maximum ang ating presence in public para po mapigilan ang pagtatangka ng mga criminal elements na gumawa ng karahasan,” Banac said.

Aside from beefing up security at Camp Bagong Diwa, the PNP also tightened its watch over the area which houses some of the members of the Ampatuan family.

Police civil disturbance unit has also been placed on alert for possible protest actions that may be staged during the event.

“Observe natin ang situation kung magkakaroon pa ng iba pang insidente o escalation so far wala pa naman tayong natatanggap na ulat o banta pero patuloy lamang ang ating mataas na level of security,” Banac said.

The PNP official also said that the Quezon City Police District will ensure the security of Judge Solis-Reyes, while the National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP Special Action Force will ensure the safety of the prosecutors and lawyers handling the case.

“Kahit matapos yung promulgation, pananatilihin natin na mataas ang level ng security hanggang sa maaaring sabihin ni Judge na hindi na niya kailangan ay saka na lang tayo magsasagawa ng adjustment,” he said.

The PNP said it has not received any validated security threat in relation to the case promulgation.

It also assured all families of the massacre victims that their security remains paramount and that it is ready to provide additional security detail when requested, subject to existing laws and policies.

The Maguindanao massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

The gruesome incident that occurred in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23, 2009, left 58 people dead, including 32 media personnel, some members of the Mangudadatu family and several civilians.

The ambush happened when they 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.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan are the primary accused in the case.

Of the 197 original suspects facing multiple murder charges, 101 were put on trial and could face sentencing soon. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

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