Former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan will remain in jail as the Supreme Court (SC) has turned down his petition for bail on murder charges, in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.
In a six-page notice made available to newsmen Wednesday, the SC’s First Division through Division Clerk of Court Librada C. Buena said the court on 22 July resolved to deny Ampatuan’s petition “for lack of merit.”
The decision affirmed the April 2018 ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA), which refused to grant bail to the petitioner.
The court explained that ruling on whether Ampatuan, who is among those charged with 58 counts of murder for the Maguindanao massacre, is entitled to bail could inadvertently result in deciding the main case itself, which is now submitted for resolution before the lower court.
“In determining the veracity of the evidence petitioner presented in support of his denial and alibi and to rebut the evidence of the prosecution, the Court will necessarily have to rule on the admissibility and probative value of these (pieces of) evidence. By deciding for or against his bail application on the basis of factual issues raised by petitioner, the court will be prematurely deciding the case beyond the parameters of judicial review at this stage of the proceedings, and preempt the parties from presenting their respective evidence during trial,” the court said.
“This court is of the view that these issues are best threshed out in a full-blown trial. The court must defer making a conclusion on this matter since the participation of conspirators, principals, accomplices and accessories are matter adjudged as a whole at the conclusion of the evidence-in-chief,” the tribunal pointed out.
Henchmen of the Ampatuan clan allegedly ambushed the convoy of their political rivals, the Mangudadatus, killing the victims who included 32 local newsmen and supporters and relatives of the Mangundadatu clan.
The event is the single most deadly event involving journalists in the country.
Among the witnesses were Esmael “Toto” Mangundadatu, Maganoy, Maguindanao vice mayor Sukarno Badal, and Lakmodin Saliao, the alleged personal assistant of Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr.
The witnesses said the petitioner gave his blessings to the ambush by phone while he was in Manila attending official events and volunteered the use of his cache of firearms and ordered the ambush group to leave no traces after the attack.