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Groups ‘shocked’ by Ampatuan son’s release

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MANILA, March 12, 2015—The Coalition Against Death Penalty (CADP) expressed disbelief that Datu Sajid Islam U. Ampatuan was able to bail himself recently out of prison where he had been held as a suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre in 2009 with his father, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr.

Supporters, loved ones and other members of the media remember the victims of the Ampatuan massacre on the 5th anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, Nov. 23, 2014. (Photo: NUJP)

‘Heinous’

In an interview over Church-run Radyo Veritas , CADP spokesperson Rudy Diamante reminded the public the crime for which the Ampatuans are implicated is “heinous,” in that they are tagged responsible for the brutal killing of no less than 58 individuals, 32 of whom members of the media.

“I find it incredible that the court allowed him to buy his freedom, citing the weak evidence of the prosecution. Just for the record: the crime he committed is heinous. … It is now very important for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to step in, and to question the court how it concluded that the case against Sajid Ampatuan is weak,” he said.

Php 11.6 million

“Why is this so? Is this going to be a precedent for similar high-profile cases in the future?” he asked.

Diamante said it is a cause of wonder for his group how a “big fish” like the younger Ampatuan managed to post the Php 11.6 million bail considering the government had earlier ordered the freezing of his family’s assets.

58 counts of murder

“Where did he get that amount? We thought 58 counts of murder are enough to assure us they can no longer enjoy their money,” he added.

According to Diamante, there are many other prisoners accused of lesser crimes, but who are not even given the chance to post bail.

He stressed the Ampatuan’s release, although probational, proves the country’s justice system, which favors only those who have money and connections cries out for reforms given that it remains indifferent to the plight of the poor.

‘Terribly disappointed’

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) says it is “terribly disappointed” at the release on bail of Sajid Ampatuan.

“As we predicted, securing the amount, which most Filipinos can only dream about, was easy for a member of a clan that had built vast wealth, much of it ill-gotten, during a decade of misrule over Maguindanao province,” group chair Rowena C. Paraan shares in a March 9 statement.

Faulty presentation

NUJP adds it fears for the course of the search for justice for the 58 victims in what it describes as “the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.”

The group blasts the grant of bail to Sajid, who was acting governor when the massacre happened, and “would certainly have been in on the murderous plot,” blaming the prosecution’s “faulty presentation of its case.”

Nefarious deal?

“At best, because of incompetence, at worst as part of some nefarious deal,” it says.

“We demand that the DOJ get to the bottom of this and move quickly to repair the damage lest a miscarriage of justice in this case be added to the long litany of sins against press freedom and justice this administration has committed,” it adds. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)


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