Fearing escape as verdict nears, DOJ wants Zaldy Ampatuan back in jail

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution appealed to the court to order the return of massacre suspect Zaldy Ampatuan to his jail cell at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, fearing he might escape from Makati Medical Hospital.

"It is apprehensive that his alleged hospital confinement under the cloak of being still undergoing continuous physical and occupational therapy may provide him all the opportunity for a convenient escape," said the prosecution in an urgent motion to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 on November 22.

Ampatuan has been hospitalized since suffering a stroke on October 22.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), which supervises the Camp Bagong Diwa, confirmed that Ampatuan is still at the Makati Medical Center as of Monday, November 25.

"Hindi pa naibabalik ng Camp Bagong Diwa," BJMP Spokesperson Xavier Solda told Rappler in a text message.

The prosecution flagged the lack of a definite date for his discharge from the hospital, and argued the therapy needed for his recuperation can be continued inside jail.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes has until December 20 to hand down her verdict on the 2009 Ampatuan massacre that killed 58 people, 32 of them journalists, during a coverage of the filing of candidacy for Maguindanao governor for the 2010 elections.

"It cannot be gainsaid that the promulgation of judgment on these cases is forthcoming with the prosecution's strong belief of conviction for accused Zaldy Ampatuan. The prosecution panel, therefore, is of the view that accused Zaldy Ampatuan would do any last ditch move towards his liberty, be it resorting to his act of taking flight," said the motion.

In August 2018, the court allowed Ampatuan to leave his jail cell to attend his daughter's wedding at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City. Philippine courts have been inconsistent in allowing furlough to detainees to attend to personal matters.

"In deference to this Honorable Court, it should now stop extending so much grace, sympathy, or concern to accused Zaldy Ampatuan but has to act firmly and with an iron hand to prevent any untoward contingency while its decision is still underway," said the motion.

"In the alternative, should accused Zaldy's retention at the Makati Med be necessary, that security personnel guarding him be augmented to ensure that he can never take flight," the prosecution said. 

Aside from Zaldy, the other principal accused in the massacre are his brothers Andal Jr and Sajid Ampatuan. Andal Jr is in jail, while Sajid is out on bail.

The massacre is the single deadliest attack on journalists in the world, and the worst election-related violence in Philippine history. Rappler.com

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 lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.