Court rules Ampatuan massacre not a rebellion: Philippines

The declaration of martial law did allow the government to collect considerable evidence of Ampatuan's involvement in the massacre last November. However from this article it seems only the one member of the clan was charged with murder whereas the others were all charged with rebellion. There does not seem to have been any rebellion as the article notes just a mass murder of political opponents! Surely more of the Ampatuan clan should be charged in the murders. The Ampatuans had close connections with the Arroyo government. Perhaps the new government after the May elections will deal more harshly with the Ampatuans. This is from the Tribune.

Rebellion rap vs Ampatuans a farce—solons

By Angie M. Rosales

The dismissal of the rebellion charges against the Ampatuans merely proves that the Arroyo administration filed the case with deceptive motives, two senators said yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said they were no longer surprised to hear of the case dismissal as the Nov. 23 incident was “pure and simple multiple murders of innocent people.”

“By filing such crimes against them, they be detained without bail. But no. The government chose to charge them with rebellion just so it can be said that the government under (President) Arroyo and her minions were doing something to penalize the Ampatuans,” Pimentel said, adding that it was a “non-case, filed with deceptive motives, and pursued with hypocritical zeal that the Arroyo government chose to do in order to mislead the people that it was upholding the law even against the warlords it was coddling in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” he added.

Aquino said the filing of rebellion charges was clearly questionable from the start, and part of the administration’s charade to justify the inexcusable declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.

“It was a sham declaration intended to protect, and not prosecute the allies of Mrs. Arroyo and to confuse the public as to the real crimes committed by the Ampatuans,” Aquino said.

“The fact that the charges were weak to begin with shows that the political alliance is still alive. Before you know it, it will be business as usual for the Mrs. Arroyo, the Ampatuans and other politicians who serve her ends.

Even if a lower court has ordered the dismissal of the rebellion charges, Pimentel said the Ampatuans should not be released yet.

Malacañang yesterday, thorugh Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar, said the court’s decision focused simply on finding no probable cause for the charges of rebellion against the accused, thereby dismissing it but such move does not necessarily translate to the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao province being illegal.

“The court (that issued the ruling) did not speak for the broader issue of the appropriateness of declaring Martial Law at that time, at that place -- that’s a different issue,” Olivar stressed. “I don’t see how the public policy thinking that went into the declaration of Martial Law would be affected by the specific ruling of rebellion charges filed against specific individuals.”

Olivar added he does not believe this particular development in the case would affect that of the multiple murder charges filed against the accused because the two cases are being handled by two different magistrates under separate judicial processes.

He, however, admitted that given this dismissal of the rebellion charges against the Ampatuans, it would now be difficult for the government to assure that a resolution to the Maguindanao Massacre case would be achieved under the Arroyo administration.

Olivar suggested to the relatives of the victims affected or alarmed by the recent decision to remain vigilant while keeping track of the developments in the case to make sure that justice won’t be denied to them.

Olivar expressed that, right now, they are looking forward to an appeal through a motion for reconsideration to be filed by Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to ensure that the Ampatuans would not be able to escape scot-free from a political offense that they allegedly committed.

For its part, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday hinted at filing an appeal before the court after the dropping of the rebellion charges.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Delfin Bangit said that while the military organization honors the decision of Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Baclig, but stressed there are other legal remedies authorities can take to pursue the case.

Ampatuan Jr. is presently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila, facing 56 counts of murder charges while Ampatuan Sr., along with another son, suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, and other members of the clan, were charged with rebellion.With Aytch S. dela Cruz and Charlie V. Manalo


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