DOJ: Acquittals in Ampatuan massacre 'expected'

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Thursday, December 19, that the 55 acquittals in the Ampatuan massacre case were "more or less expected."

"We knew from the beginning where our strength lies and where certain gaps in our evidence exist so this is something more or less expected," Guevarra said in a brief interview with reporters shortly after the promulgation Thursday morning.

Only 28 people were convicted of 57 counts of murder for the gruesome killing of 58 people, 32 of them journalists, on November 23, 2009. All cases related to journalist Ronaldo Momay, the 58th victim, were dismissed because his body was never found. Their lawyer Harry Roque said they will appeal the civil aspect so Momay's heirs can be awarded damages too.

A total of 55 people, most of them policemen, and including Ampatuan brother Datu Sajid Islam, were acquitted due to reasonable doubt. Mohamad Sangki, a former municipal officer, was also acquitted due to reasonable doubt. Sangki was identified as one of the armed men in the massacre site.

There were 15 others who were convicted for being accessories to the crimes and were sentenced to 6 to 10 years in prison.

"We trust that the judge has very extensively examined the evidence and we trust in her impartiality in her rendition of this very important judgment," said Guevarra.

The 28 convicted included Datu Andal Jr, Zaldy, Anwar Sr and other clan members Anwar Sajid and Anwar Jr.

"Today is the day we have waited and I am very happy as Secretary of Justice that finally justice has been served," said Guevarra. 

All other cases against those who remain at large have been archived. Alias warrants have been issued against around 80 suspects to reiterate the order to arrest.

Private prosecutors said a new batch of complaints will be filed before the Department of Justice to run after more gunmen. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.