Andal Sr. arraignment set on June 1

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Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre. Contributed Photo
Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre. Contributed Photo

MANILA, Philippines – Arraignment for Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre, has finally been scheduled on June 1, Wednesday, as per the Omnibus Order issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 last May 27.

Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes released the order in line with her word that she would decide on the arraignment of Andal Sr. and others accused who have not been arraigned yet, on or before the May 27.

In yet another hindrance to speed up the massacre trial, arraignment for the 21 others accused in the massacre, including five principally accused Ampatuans, are held in abeyance pending their respective motion for reconsideration.

Pending is an earlier motion to reconsider the earlier motion the 21 filed on March 24, 2010. The motion called for the inhibition of Reyes as presiding judge, the reconsideration of an earlier motion that found probable cause against them, the “recall of warrants of arrest issued against them”, and for “lack of probable cause”, the dismissal of cases filed against them.

On May 25, to the surprise and disappointment of local and foreign
media, and the families of the massacre victims, Reyes did not arraign
Ampatuan Sr.

Reyes did not release an arraignment order despite the voluntary motion filed last May 18 by Andal Sr.’s legal counsel Atty. Sigfrid Fortun.

The May 25 trial carried on with Police Officer 2 Richard Santuele’s testimony. During the cross examination, Fortun questioned why
Santuele presented 86 photos while he had taken 150 pictures, to which he answered he decided not to produce positive prints of some photos since they were either blurred, repeated or photos of himself.

By not presenting the photos, Fortun insinuated that Santuele could be charged with suppression of evidence.

Santuele for his part, said he could still present the 64 other photos to court, if asked to do so.

The cross examination of PO1 Rudimer Daproza had the Defense panel question the non-observance of protocols, such as failure to put evidence on Ziploc containers and wear gloves while processing the
evidence.

Myrna Reblando, widow of Manila Bulletin’s Dave Reblando, still failed to show up at the May 26 trial, despite being called by the court in the previous hearings. Cipriana Gatchalian, another widow, instead sat and detailed before the court the breakdown of damages she would like to claim in line with the death of her husband, Froilan Gatchalian.

She asked for P10 million for moral damages and another P5 million for exemplary damages. She disclosed that 15 percent of what she will get
will be given to her lawyers.

Presentation of another witness, Manila Bulletin correspondent Joseph Jubilag, was held indefinitely. He was presented supposedly to testify
on an attendance sheet of 35 journalists who would be joining the Mangudadatu convoy, but Defense moved to postpone his testimony,
earlier because his name was nowhere in the lineup of witnesses for that day’s trial in the whole list of witnesses identified during the pre-trial; and later, because the list of journalists presented, on which Jubilag’s testimony would zero in, was merely a photocopy.

Atty. Harry Roque said the Defense panel will present Jubilag again, when the original copy of the list has already been obtained. The list, said to have been covered with blood, was recovered from body of victim Andy Teodoro. It included Jubilag in the list; however he, including two others, did not proceed with the Mangudadatu convoy. Jubilag said he personally feared his life given that he had earlier received threats which are said to have come from the Ampatuans.

Prosecutor Amor Robles presented PO1 Rey Fortaleza, SOCO Region 12, the one who was officially tasked to do sketches of the crime scene. His presentation and cross examination will resume on June 1. Reblando
is likewise expected to be cross-examined during the June 1 trial.

Solis Reyes also ordered the Department of Justice to present Sukarno Badal in the next trial. The judge ordered his presentation last May 25, but Badal did not appear in the said hearing.

Warden in QC jail annex relieved

Meanwhile, following allegations of giving special treatment to the principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology relieved the warden and 20 other personnel of the facility where the alleged masterminds of the massacre are detained.

On May 27, BJMP Director Rosendo Dial also ordered the investigation of the relieved jail warden, Chief Inspector Glenford Valdepeñas of the Quezon City Jail Annex at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, along the other jail personnel.

Dial and the 20 others will be subject to a full-blown investigation, after families of journalists and other individuals slain in the massacre, led by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, expressed disappointment over favors supposedly given to the Ampatuans, who are believed to have planned and executed the massacre. BJMP Public Information Officer Insp. Xavier Solda said that while the investigation is ongoing, Valdepeñas would be reassigned to the BJMP Regional Office-NCR.

On May 26, Valdepeñas denied the massacre victims’ families access to the jail facility at Camp Bagong Diwa. Valdepeñas only allowed a prosecutor and a defense counsel to proceed with the inspection, leaving the waiting families and private prosecutors dismayed. Philippine Star online (“Andal Sr. allowed to use mobile phone inside jail”, May 26) reported that while waiting for Valdepeñas’ decision, Mangudadatu and the other complainants saw a Defense counsel “casually open[ing] the door of the jail warden’s office.” Mangudadatu yelled at the counsel for the gesture; the other complainants also threw heckling remarks in disappointment. In turn, the counsel asked the
victims to “be civil”.

Dial had already allowed the victims’ families, led by Maguindanao governor Esmael Mangudadatu, to proceed with the inspection. Also, during the May 25 trial, Solis Reyes gave word that she would allow the jail visit as long as visitors would coordinate first with Valdepeñas.

The relieved warden’s decision not to allow families to visit the principally accused Ampatuans sparked allegations that they are indeed receiving special treatment in Court. Mangudadatu showed photos of Andal Sr. enjoying privileges such as using a mobile phone and accepting many visitors at once. ABS-CBN reporter and anchor Ces Drilon also showed photos from her source inside the jail facility of Andal Sr. playing basketball.

Solda said that so far, the BJMP investigators have yet to see any indication of special treatment inside the Ampatuans’ cells.

Prosecution lawyer Harry Roque said he also received reports of Ampatuan Sr. dining at Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.

On May 25, Valdepeñas told reporters that their security protocols would not allow anyone, including the Ampatuans jailed in Camp Bagong Diwa , to slip out of the jail facility, and that no special treatment is accorded to them. Currently, aside from six prominent members of the Ampatuans, there are 88 other suspects jailed in the said facility.

Earlier, in the spirit of transparency, NUJP has called for the conducting of surprise jail visits at the Quezon City Jail Annex at Camp Bagong Diwa . NUJP proposed the visit in light with the apparent laxity in security measures inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa and, consequently, special treatment being afforded by high profile personalities jailed in it.

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