MANILA, Philippines – They were “silent spectators to a crime unfolding before their very eyes.”
After almost 6 years of hearings and proceedings, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) has dismissed 20 policemen for being “co-conspirators” in the murder of 58 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.
“Their inaction manifests complicity and unity of action to those who committed the abduction, and later the murders, themselves,” said the Philippine National Police (PNP) in a press release on Wednesday, December 9.
On November 23, 2009, 58 people were killed during what was supposed to be a trip to the provincial capitol of Maguindanao to file then-gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy. It is the country's worst case of election-related violence. (WATCH: 58 seconds)
The prime suspect in the massacre is Andal Ampatuan Sr, whose son, Andal Ampatuan Jr, was then the incumbent governor. The older Ampatuan has since died.
The 20 policemen, a mix of junior officers and enlisted personnel, “conspired with Andal Ampatuan Jr and his armed men in carrying out the massacre,” the Napolcom said.
The following have been dismissed from service for grave misconduct:
Another officer, Inspector Saudi Matabalao Mokamad, was also dismissed for “serious neglect of duty and less grave neglect of duty” because he failed “to take command in an emergency when he simply dismissed the gunshots he heard instead of investigating the matter, he being the highest ranking police officer in the area.” Mokamad also failed to inform his superiors, the Napolcom noted.
11 more cops were given a 59-day suspension for “less grave neglect of duty”:
According to the Napolcom, the 11 were liable for “paying no attention and simply ignoring the gunshots they heard 30 minutes after the convoy of the Mangudadatus passed their checkpoint.”
Another 20 cops were exonerated because the Napolcom “found no sufficient evidence to prove their culpability.” One cop was cleared of charges because he was already dead.
The Napolcom also dismissed complaints against 9 cops “for lack of jurisdiction without prejudice to the revival of the case in the event that they will be restored to full duty status.”
“Although the NAPOLCOM found sufficient evidence to establish the liability of some of the respondents, we were constrained to dismiss the case against them because they either had gone on absence without official leave or had been dropped from the rolls prior to the institution of the administrative complaint on March 10, 2010,” the PNP quoted Napolcom Vice Chairman Eduardo Escueta as saying.
The Napolcom has administrative oversight of the PNP, giving it the authority to hear cases filed against its officials and personnel. The cases against some 62 members of the PNP were filed by the relatives of the murder victims – family members and supporters of Mangudadatu, as well as media who were part of the convoy.
Hearings headed by a 3-member ad-hoc committee officially ended 2011, but respondents have the option to re-appeal cases against them.
No criminal convictions have been made in the case filed against the Ampatuans and their alleged accomplices. (READ: 6 updates on Maguindanao massacre's 6th year)