THE judge handling the Maguindanao massacre case has ordered the immediate return of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan from the Makati Medical Center (MMC) to his detention cell in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, three days before the scheduled promulgation of the case.
Zaldy, his brother Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr., and 99 other accused are awaiting the verdict to be issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes on December 19, for the 2009 multiple murder case, which shocked the world as the single-biggest incident where media workers were killed.
More than 30 of the 58 people killed there were journalists and media workers, who had accompanied a convoy of the Ampatuans’ political rival, then enroute to the local Commission on Elections for the filing of candidacies.
Zaldy was rushed to the Taguig Pateros District Hospital on October 21, 2019, after losing consciousness and suffering from weakness on the left side of the body.
He was subsequently transferred to the MMC for treatment and has been confined at the said hospital for more than 40 days already.
Government prosecutors moved for Zaldy’s return to Camp Bagong Diwa considering that the promulgation of the Maguindanao massacre case is nearing.
They expressed apprehension that the former governor might think of escaping prior to the court’s announcement of its verdict.
Lawyers: Zaldy too weak for jail
In countering the government prosecutors’ motion, the accused insisted that his return to jail would be prejudicial to his health since, based on the doctor’s latest examination, he suffered another “acute infarct” or stroke.
In ordering his return to jail, Solis-Reyes noted that based on his medical abstract/discharge summary, the former governor is already stable with no more complaint of dizziness and headache.
The medical report also indicated that the accused is ambulatory, and that his lower extremities are stronger than the upper ones.
“This being the case, the court finds that there is no longer need for accused-movant to remain in the hospital as the procedure during rehabilitation session can be done to him as an outpatient,” the judge said in a three-page order issued on December 16.
The trial court said unless his attending physicians execute a certification that his return to the detention will endanger his life, the motion of the government prosecutors should be granted.
The trial court directed the jail warden of Quezon City Jail-Annex, Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City, to immediately transport Zaldy to the said detention facility.
DOJ chief: We did our best
Relatedly, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday assured the public that government prosecutors gave their best to secure a conviction of the 101 accused in the multiple murder case in connection with the gruesome Maguindanao massacre which left 58 people dead, including 32 journalists.
Guevarra, however, said he could not comment on the possible outcome of the decision to be handed down by Solis-Reyes.
“I cannot comment on that because I might preempt the promulgation. I have no idea as to how it will go but what I can say is that the prosecutors presented all that it can. It did its best. That is all I can say,” Guevarra said.
“As to how the Judge will appreciate the evidence, I am not sure about that so let’s go through it and see,” he added.
The promulgation will be held inside Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, at 9 a.m.
The November 23, 2009, massacre claimed the lives of journalists accompanying supporters of now-Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu in filing his papers to run for the post of Maguindanao. He was set to challenge against Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of then-Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.
The convoy was blocked by armed supporters of the Ampatuans and brought to the town of Ampatuan where they were slaughtered and buried in a hastily dug grave, with the use of a local government backhoe.
Murder cases were originally filed against 197 accused, of whom 15 bore the Ampatuan surname.
A total of 117 people were arrested including prominent members of the Ampatuan clan. Seven died while in detention, including former Gov. Ampatuan Sr.
At least 80 accused are still at large.