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Philippine court affirms indictment of two primary suspects in Ampatuan Massacre

UPDATE: Ampatuan Massacre prosecutor fined for indirect contempt (CMFR, 27 February 2013)

(CMFR/IFEX) - December 6, 2012 - The Philippine Supreme Court has reaffirmed the indictment of two primary suspects in the Ampatuan Massacre.

The Third Division of the Supreme Court reaffirmed last 14 November 2012 its resolutions finding nothing wrong with the Court of Appeals' upholding the indictment of former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan as one of the accused in the Ampatuan Massacre trial. The court said Zaldy's 10 October 2010 motion seeking clarification of the court's 25 June and 15 August 2012 resolutions lacked merit.

The Court's First Division also upheld the indictment of Anwar Ampatuan Sr. in a 3 October 2012 resolution. The Court was acting on a petition for review on certiorari filed by Anwar Ampatuan Sr. after the Court of Appeals denied his petition questioning his inclusion in the Massacre trial.

Fifty-eight persons, including 32 journalists and media workers, were killed in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province last 23 November 2009.

In October 2012, Zaldy through his lawyers Philip Sigfrid Fortun and Geraldine Meneses asked the Court in a nine-page motion to explain why his petition for review on certiorari and the subsequent motion for reconsideration were denied. He argued that the Supreme Court was obliged by the Philippine Constitution to explain its decisions.

Zaldy argued that: "Such a clarification will provide him some assurance that the Honorable Court gave his appeal the attention it rightfully deserved especially since his life and liberty are at stake, and his 33-month detention is a punishment too painful to bear."

The Court however explained that "there is no need to fully explain the Court's denial." "Notably, the facts and laws are already discussed in the decision of the CA and the minute resolution denying due course the petition for review of the decision of the CA only means that the Court agrees with and/or adopts the findings and conclusions of the CA," the Court added.

The Special (Former) 11th Division of the Manila Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the decision of former acting Justice Sec. Alberto Agra to reinstate Zaldy Ampatuan in the Massacre multiple murder case.

Meanwhile, the Court's First Division in its resolution upholding the legality of the indictment of Anwar Ampatuan said that Anwar "failed to sufficiently show that the Court of Appeals committed any reversible error in the challenged decision and resolution as to warrant the exercise of this Court's discretionary appellate jurisdiction."

Last 19 August 2011, the Court of Appeals denied Anwar's petition for certiorari saying that former acting Justice Sec. Alberto Agra "did not commit grave abuse of discretion" in upholding his indictment in May 2010.

Only two out of the eight primary accused - Unsay Ampatuan and Andal Ampatuan Sr. - had been arraigned since the hearings began in 2010.

(UPDATE: Quezon City RTC Branch 221 judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes has set the arraignment of Zaldy Ampatuan on 12 December 2012.)

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