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DoJ chief: Court grants Ampatuan furlough




JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said the government prosecutors did all what they can to stop detained Maguindanao massacre suspect and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan from attending the wedding of his daughter.

EX-ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Rep. Ruby Shahali (IG)

EX-ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Rep. Ruby Shahali (IG)

Guevarra made the statement after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 allowed Ampatuan to attend the wedding of his daughter, Bai Nur Aila, last Tueday in Pasay City.

“The prosecution vigorously opposed Zaldy Ampatuan’s motion for furlough to attend his daughter’s wedding, but the court granted the motion for humanitarian reasons,” the secretary told reporters yesterday.

Guevarra reacted to allegations from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) who accused government prosecutors of doing nothing to prevent Ampatuan from going to the wedding which was held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.

“We all know that most people accused of lesser offenses almost never get to enjoy a privilege as that granted Zaldy Ampatuan. What made him an exception to the rule?

“Surely, his camp would have had to petition the court well in advance. Where were the state prosecutors in all this? Did they contest the petition? Perhaps, more importantly, did they even inform the families of the victims and other parties to the case?” the group asked in a statement.

“At the very least, the prosecution owes the public a full account and credible explanation,” it added.

Though it understands a parent’s desire to be present at such an important milestone in the life of a child, the NUJP stressed that “the crime of which Mr. Ampatuan is accused of is such a heinous nature that the shock and outrage it stirred around the world forced then President Gloria Arroyo to move against the powerful clan that was among her staunchest allies.”

“Almost nine years after the rampage that claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers, no one has yet been convicted. Yet a principal accused, Sajid Ampatuan, was granted bail. That and now this, we feel, gives us and the victims’ families more than enough cause to worry about whether we can truly expect justice for this most grievous of crimes,” it lamented.

On Nov. 23, 2009, the victims were on their way to witness the filing of certificate of candidacy of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu when they were stopped and killed by armed men in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.