Manhunt launched for Maguindanao massacre suspects

PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa has ordered the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the regional director of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to launch a manhunt for the 80 Maguindanao massacre suspects who are still at large.

"Ito'y mananatiling hamon sa PNP na ang lahat ay maaresto at ma-accounted for upang madala rin sila sa korte at harapin ang kasong sinampa laban sa kanila," PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Bernard Banac said in a press conference Friday, December 20, 2019.

(This will remain a challenge for the PNP, that all those at large be arrested and accounted for.)

Banac also said 17 of the acquitted policemen may be reinstated. They are now considered on leave without pay while in detention. If reinstated, they will not be entitled to back wages.

PNP rules and regulations allow accused personnel acquitted of the charges to return to duty.

Of the 62 policemen charged with the crime, 19 were found guilty while 36 were acquitted by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes on Thursday, December 19.

Those dismissed from the service but were acquitted of the crime will require a different set of procedures for reinstatement, Banac said.

"Their acquittal does not necessarily translate to reinstatement to the police service. Their dismissal from the PNP stemmed from preponderance of evidence which is entirely different from criminal case proceedings," Banac said in a statement.

Of those charged, 43 were found guilty while 56 were acquitted of the murder of 57 persons.

Of the 43 who were convicted, 28 were considered principal suspects while 15 were found guilty of being accessories to the crime.

The principal accused and convicted included Andal "Datu Unsay" Ampatuan Jr. and his brothers Anwar Sr. and Zaldy.

The 28 were sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or up to 40 years in prison.

Of those convicted of being accessories, 14 are policemen. They will serve six to 10 years in prison.

A total of 58 persons, including 32 media workers, were killed in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre. The remains of the 58th victim, however, have yet to be found.

The victims were part of a convoy led by Bai Genalyn Mangudadatu, who was sent by her husband Esmael "Toto" to file his certificate of candidacy for governor.

Toto, who was challenging the powerful Ampatuan family, sent his wife because he had received death threats and thought that the women accompanied by media workers and lawyers would be safe.

About 100 armed men waylaid the convoy and buried both human remains and vehicles in a mass grave in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009. (MVI/SunStar Philippines)