Zaldy Ampatuan returned to jail as verdict nears

Zaldy Ampatuan on his way back to a jail cell.

MANILA, Philippines — For security reasons, a Quezon City court has ordered the return of former regional governor Zaldy Ampatuan to his jail cell in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City two days before the expected promulgation of the verdict in the Philippines’ worst political massacre.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, who granted the prosecution’s motion to order Ampatuan returned to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan from his confinement in a Makati hospital, is the same judge who will read the verdict tomorrow (Thursday, 19 December 2019) that victims and their families waited for a decade.

Ten years after, “the pain is still in my heart,” Toto Mangudadatu, now a congressman said at a recent news forum in Quezon City.  “It’s really hard for me to regain my life and I couldn’t say that I’m in a better state until we can get a conviction.”

“Ten years is enough and I hope that after the one-month extension, the accused will finally be convicted,” added Mangudadatu.

The murders, considered as one of the most horrible incidents to ever happen involving the death of 58 individuals including 32 media workers, were believed to have been orchestrated by the powerful Ampatuan clan supposed to silence Mangudadatu in their political rivalry.

The victims were on their way to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao to witness the filing of the certificate of candidacy of then-gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu, then mayor of Buluan town, lost his wife, sisters and other relatives in the massacre.

Following the gruesome incident, Mangudadatu claims the Ampatuans actually tried to bribe him with P25 million just to drop the case but he refused the offer as lives including those of his wife, relatives, and the rest of the victims were non-negotiable.

Prevent escape

Accordingly, the move of the prosecutors to bring Zaldy Ampatuan back in jail was to prevent him from escaping as the ruling nears.

Ampatuan has been under hospital arrest since October after suffering a stroke but he can now allegedly undergo rehabilitation while in detention.

“The court finds that there is no longer any need for accused-movant to remain in hospital as the procedure during rehabilitation session can be done to him as an out-patient,” Reyes said.

The judge also ordered the jail warden of Quezon City Jail-Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, to immediately transport Ampatuan to his detention facility.

It was also gathered that a motion was filed last month as state prosecutors stressed that Ampatuan “would do any last-ditch move toward his liberty, be it resorting to his act of taking flight.”

Primary accused

Zaldy Ampatuan and Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. are the primary accused in the case. Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan was allowed to post bail in 2015 and was elected mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in May.

Ampatuan patriarch Andal Sr. died in July 2015.

Of the original 197 suspects, 80 remain at large, including 15 members of the Ampatuan clan. (IAMIGO/CNS)

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