Mindanao Times

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)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines