Malacañang wants flaws in justice system rectified
MANILA -- The acquittal of some 56 accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case proves there are “serious flaws” in the country’s justice system that need to be corrected, Malacañang said on Saturday.
“We have commended the efforts of our prosecutors -- and that commendation is unchanged,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, a former counsel of Andal Ampatuan Jr. in the Maguindanao massacre case, said in a statement.
“While the rule of law has prevailed following (Thursday’s) promulgation by the trial court on the case of the Maguindanao massacre, the Palace notes that there are serious flaws in our justice system longexisting and must be rectified if we are to be fealty to the rule of law and due process as enshrined in our
Constitution,” he added.
On Thursday, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 absolved the 56 accused of criminal liability over the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre of 58 people, including 32 media workers, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
The decade-old Maguindanao massacre case is dubbed the worst electionrelated case and the single deadliest attack on journalists in Philippine history.
Most of those acquitted were policemen assigned to Maguindanao province, several were alleged members of the then-powerful
Ampatuan family’s militia, and two were members of the controversial clan accused of orchestrating the crime.
Solis-Reyes ruled that the accused police officers were deemed “totally innocent” of the crimes charged against them.
Datu Akmad Ampatuan and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, meanwhile, were exonerated because the prosecution failed to present evidence that they were part of the grisly murder of the 58 victims.
Solis-Reyes, however, sentenced Maguindanao massacre masterminds Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr.,(
Zaldy Ampatuan, and Anwar Ampatuan Sr. to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment without parole.
About 15 of the 101 accused were slapped with up to 10 years imprisonment for being accessories to the brutal crime.
Acquittal of accused ‘not an isolated case’
Panelo acknowledged that the case of the 56 defendants who were exonerated from multiple murder charges was “not an isolated case.”
“The resultant tragedy is the deprivation of the liberty of the persons adjudged as innocent by the court. It is not an isolated case. There are hundreds
of similar pending cases in other courts,” he said.
Panelo noted that apart from “throwing away (the) productive years of those accused who were pronounced not guilty,” government resources, including manhours and effort, “have gone to waste.”
He said the “blindfolded Lady Justice” symbolizes an “impartial proceeding without regard to the social and political status of those haled before the mighty and unforgiving arm of the law, uninfluenced by the torrent of adverse people’s judgment.”
“The government, forever unaffected and unmoved by the infectious winds of public opinion, must pursue and protect this ideal,” Panelo said. “This is one lesson we must all learn lest we repeat the same grievous error at the cost of liberty and honor of the innocents.”
Avoid repeat of ‘injustice’
Panelo cited that the “major cause of this aberration” was the filing of charges before the court against any accused, even if the evidence presented before the investigating public prosecutor “cannot sustain a conviction of an accused of a crime to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
He also noted that the “hasty and heedless” filing of information was due “either to the faulty appreciation of evidence by -- or the fear of -- the investigating prosecutor to be subjected to an administrative sanction or get a reprisal from the complainant if the case is dismissed at the preliminary investigation stage.”
Panelo expressed hope that there would be no repeat of “injustice” experienced by the 56 acquitted in the Maguindanao massacre case.
“An analysis of the court’s judgment shows that 10 years of what could have been productive lives of 56 acquitted accused have been wasted in incarceration, and necessarily their families have since become dysfunctional, with their wives and their children bearing the brunt of the stigma and the humiliation that come with it, scarring them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
“This is an injustice that cannot be countenanced nor continue. It must not find print ever again in the pages of our history as a nation.” Respect court’s ruling Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said he was “satisfied” with the court’s ruling.
Andanar said he respects Solis-Reyes’ decision, as he believed that the latter had to go through a “democratic and judicial” process to ensure the release of a fair ruling.
“Eh kung ‘yun naman ang desisyon ng judge, ‘di ba, hindi natin puwedeng kontrahin iyon (Whatever the decision of the judge is, we cannot oppose it),” he said over RMN on Friday.
“This is victory to the media industry sa Pilipinas (in the Philippines). Ito rin ay isang panalo para sa media sa buong mundo. At pinakamalaking panalo ito sa pamilya ng mga biktima (This is also a victory for the media across the world. This is a huge victory for the families of the victims),” Andanar added. (PNA)