CA: No bail for Zaldy Ampatuan in Maguindanao massacre case

MANILA The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the dismissal of the bail petition filed by former Autonomous Region Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the respondents in the Maguindanao massacre case.

In a 23-page resolution dated April 18 penned by Associate Justice Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob, concurred by Associate Justices Samuel Gaerlan and Ramon Paul Hernando, the CA 8th Division denied for lack of merit on Ampatuan's plea seeking the reversal of the joint orders dated September 15, 2015 and November 15, 2015 issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.

"The denial of petitioners' application for bail was not unreasonable but, on the contrary, was the result of a thorough assessment of the evidence presented before the trial court. By making a preliminary appraisal of the merits of the case, public respondent did not exercise her discretion in a careless manner," the CA held.

The CA "was not persuaded" with Ampatuan's argument that the prosecution failed to present credible evidence in support of its allegation that he conspired with 196 others in committing the massacre.

"History will never forget the atrocities perpetrated on 23 November 2009, when 57 innocent civilians were massacred in Sitio Masalay, Municipality of Ampatuan, Maguindanao Province," the CA said.

In upholding the trial court's ruling, the CA noted that the testimonies of several prosecution witnesses appeared to be in uniform and consistently shown that the former governor joined various discussions with his family members on how to carry out the crimes.

When the grant of bail is discretionary, the prosecution has the burden of showing that the evidence of guilt against the accused is strong. On this score, the determination of whether or not the evidence of guilt is strong, being a matter of judicial discretion remains with the judge, the CA explained.

"In the instant case, the evidence on record would suggest that, while there may be doubts as to petitioner's overt act that may result in his criminal liability by reason of conspiracy, the presumption is great that he is probably guilty of the charges, therefore, bail should be refused," the CA noted.

On Nov. 23, 2009, 58 people, 32 of whom were journalists were killed in the massacre which was dubbed as the world's worst single attack on the press.

The Ampatuan clan was accused of masterminding the massacre to derail the political plans of rival Esmael Mangudadatu, incumbent Maguindanao governor, for the 2010 elections. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency