The Maguindanao Massacre: LEGAL UPDATE as of January 7, 2010

Two cases arose out of the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre in which fifty-seven (57) bodies were recovered from the hills of Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

These cases are Multiple Murder and Rebellion.

Multiple Murder

The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) legal counsel Prima Jesusa Quinsayas is actively involved in the first case, the Multiple Murder case now before two legal arenas: the trial court and the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigating panel.

Fifty-six (56) cases have been filed in three batches before two trial courts:

1.   On December 1, 2009, twenty-five (25) Informations were filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 15 of Cotabato City;

2.   On December 9, 2009, another fifteen (15) Informations were filed before the same court; and

3.   On December 21, 2009, sixteen (16) Informations were filed before the RTC Branch 221 of Quezon City (QC).

In a Resolution dated December 8, 2009, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the transfer of trial venue from Cotabato City to QC.  The Cotabato City RTC submitted the records for the twenty-five (25) Informations to the QC RTC but did not do the same for the second batch of fifteen (15) Informations, which was caught in transition between the filing of the Petition for Change of Venue and the SC Resolution on said petition.

Thus, to date, forty-one (41) cases are before the QC RTC while fifteen (15) remain before the Cotabato City RTC.

For all fifty-six (56) cases, there is only one accused: Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Case No. 57

The 57th case, that of UNTV’s Victor Nuñez, has yet to be filed.

It was not filed along with the third batch because at the time of filing (December 21), the autopsy report for Nuñez was that of an “Unidentified Male Cadaver” (Medico-Legal Report No. A09-089).  This was due to overlapping claims of two (2) families over said body.  Through deduction, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Lab Region XII determined that it was the body of Nuñez.  All the same, the last three (3) bodies (the two others being those of Daniel Tiamzon and Hannibal Cachuela) were subjected to DNA tests by the PNP Crime Lab Camp Crame.  The results have yet to be released.

Before the year 2009 ended, the Death Certificate of Victor Nuñez was issued.  The DOJ panel of prosecutors has been informed of this fact and the 57th Information is expected to be filed before the end of this month.

Preliminary Investigation

The DOJ panel of prosecutor headed by public prosecutor Rosanne Balauag held two hearings for the preliminary investigation based on the separate complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).  Although given different docket numbers, the two complaints were heard jointly.

During the first hearing held December 18, 2009, Andal Ampatuan Jr. attended the same together with other Respondents named in the two complaints.

Counsel for the Ampatuans invoked Section 16, Article III[1] of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.  At the same time, he said they would not be submitting counter-affidavits claiming that the Acting Secretary of Justice has prejudged the case with her declaration that there is enough evidence to convict the Ampatuans.

Accused Ampatuan Jr. did not attend the second hearing held December 28, 2009.  In this second hearing, the Ampatuans had three counsels representing them separately.  The counsel for Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Andal Ampatuan Jr. reiterated that the two will not submit counter-affidavits.  The counsel for Zaldy, Anwar, Sajid Islam and Akmad (all Ampatuans), however, submitted their previously subscribed counter-affidavits, as did the counsel for Saudi Ampatuan.

After all counter-affidavits were duly subscribed, Pros. Balauag declared the complaints as submitted for resolution.  It is hoped the Resolution shall be out before the end of the month, despite news reports stating that February 5, 2010, is the deadline.

Bail Proceedings

On December 2, 2009, the counsel of Accused Ampatuan Jr. filed a Petition for Bail and set December 7, 2009, as hearing date for said petition.

In its Order dated December 4, 2009, Hon. Milanio M. Guerrero, special judge assigned by the Supreme Court to handle the criminal case in Cotabato City, held the hearing for the Petition for Bail in abeyance pending SC resolution on the then pending petition for transfer of trial venue.

The prosecution filed its Opposition to said petition on December 7, 2009.  The FFFJ legal counsel helped draft said Opposition.

After SC ordered the change in trial venue, the initial hearing for bail proceedings took place January 5, 2010, at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.

Before the bail proceedings started, Accused Ampatuan Jr. was arraigned for forty-one (41) cases of Murder.  After initially claiming that he understood only Maguindanaoan language, he agreed to have the charges read in English.  He pleaded “not guilty” to all counts.  In initiating the shortened method of arraigning the accused (his counsel waived the reading of every Information, opting to have one reading per batch of Informations filed and then having the docket numbers and names of victims read one after the other), defense counsel invoked Section 14 Article III[2] of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

For the bail hearing, prosecution presented one witness: Atty. Ricardo Diaz, NBI Counter-Terrorism Unit head.  He gave an overview of the investigation conducted by the NBI on the Maguindanao Massacre.

Counsel of the accused agreed to stipulate as to the existence of the affidavits the NBI acquired in the course of its investigation, but not to the truthfulness of the contents.  The USB containing the photos and video footage that the witness obtained from the first responding team at the crime scene, the 64th Infantry Battalion, was not admitted into evidence nor marked provisionally on the objection that the contents were not authentic and that the witness was not the one who took the photos and/or the video footage.

While the prosecution identified eleven (11) other witnesses for the bail proceedings, presiding judge Hon. Jocelyn Solis-Reyes asked that the number of witnesses be limited.

Next hearing dates are January 13 and 20 (both Wednesday), afterwhich hearings shall be held twice a week.

The FFFJ-FLAG-UPLM-PILC Legal Team

Joining the FFFJ counsel in doing legal groundwork related to the massacre are the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), Union of People’s Lawyers for Mindanao (UPLM) and Public Interest Law Center (PILC).

It was agreed that while the families shall be represented by a counsel on record (please see Table below), the legal team shall work together not only in the Multiple Murder case but also to assist the families in other legal matters related to the case.

Two lawyers were identified and assigned as point persons for the families: Atty. Mary Anne Lagare-Academia for General Santos City and Atty. Gilbert Bandiola for Koronadal City.  Both are based in General Santos City.

Other lawyers in the team are Attorneys Manuel Quibod, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Ding Estores, Jenny Ramos, Norman Doral, Pinky Cabreros, Rowena Licas, German Operiano, Francisco Gacal, Rachel Pastores and Julius Matibag.

Table: Distribution of media victims by counsel/s on record***

Media victims (family representative) Counsel/s on record
Marife Montaño (Maura and Norberto Montaño) Prima Jesusa Quinsayas
Marites Cablitas (Elliver Cablitas) Same
Gina dela Cruz (Nancy dela Cruz) Same
Rosell Morales (Mary Grace Morales) Same
Noel Decena (Freddie Solinap) Same
John Caniban (Teresita Caniban and Argie Gulipatan) Same
Romeo Jimmy Cabillo (Corazon Cabillo) Same
Hannibal Cachuela (Ricardo Cachuela Jr.) Same
Bengie Adolfo (Virginia Adolfo and Malou Buenafe) Same
Ernesto Maravilla Jr. (Ivy Maravilla) Same
Fernando Razon (Estrella Razon) Same
Francisco Subang Jr. (Ma. Luisa Subang) Same
Eleanor Dalmacio (Apolinario Dalmacio Sr.) Same
Ronie Perante (Merly Perante) Same
Rubello Bataluna (Phoebe Bataluna) Same
Jephon Cadagdagon (Remia Cadagdagon) Same
Alejandro Reblando (Myrna Reblando) Same; as collaborating counsel as is Atty. Harry Roque; one Atty. Amore is the lead counsel
Arturo Betia Rachel Pastores (PILC, UPLM)

***covers only families represented by the FFFJ-FLAG-UPLM-PILC legal team

Rebellion

It was agreed that the FFFJ-FLAG-UPLM-PILC legal team shall not be actively involved in the Rebellion case.  It was also agreed that the only monitoring of this case is to ensure it is not used by the defense to have the same absorb the Multiple Murder case.

The FFFJ legal counsel attended the Rebellion inquest held on December 7, 2009.  She went through the complaint jointly filed by the CIDG and NBI to check whether the allegations would endanger the Multiple Murder case.  In the complaint, the narration of events starts on November 27, 2009, four (4) days after the Maguindanao massacre.  The massacre was mentioned only in passing in relation to the arrest of Andal Ampatuan Jr.   Thus, the probability of having the Multiple Murder case absorbed is remote (but not impossible; thus, the need to keep watch over the case).

On January 6, 2010, Acting Secretary of Justice Agnes VST Devanadera filed a petition for change of trial venue.  Pending resolution by SC on said petition, prosecution filed an Urgent Motion for Cancellation of Hearing and to Suspend Proceedings. Today, January 7, 2010, is supposedly the date to hear the Motion for Judicial Determination of Probable Cause filed by the accused.

Other matters

In its initial complaint, CIDG did not name certain police officers (Mukamad, Dicay, Maguid, and company) as respondents. FFFJ wrote a letter addressed to the President and coursed through three (3) offices – Secretary of Justice, Secretary of Interior and Local Government, and PNP Chief – requesting that police investigation of the case be given to the PNP Intelligence Group (IG) instead of CIDG for the latter’s failure to name as respondents certain police officers.

In its second complaint, CIDG included the police officers in its revised list of respondents. Police investigation of the case, however, was not given to IG and remained with CIDG.


[1] Section 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.

[2] Section 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.

One response to “The Maguindanao Massacre: LEGAL UPDATE as of January 7, 2010”

  1. Anne lagare | Bgpjax says:

    […] The Maguindanao Massacre: LEGAL UPDATE as of January 7, 2010 …Jan 19, 2010 … Mary Anne Lagare-Academia for General Santos City and Atty. Gilbert Bandiola for Koronadal City. Both are based in General Santos City. … […]