FORMER Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz scored Wednesday Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. for a not guilty plea on the death of 57 people last November 23 in Maguindanao.

Cruz said: “He had not just a lot of guts but also a lot of guile and has clearly no shame in what he is doing… In his case, there is strong presumption of guilt, not innocence.”

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But Cruz admitted that it no longer surprised him, saying “it is understandable. Even if you put the devil himself before a court of law for all his heinous deeds, it will plead not guilty.”

Last Tuesday, Ampatuan entered a not guilty plea to the multiple murder charges filed against him at the start of the hearing of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in Camp Crame.

Ampatuan is being accused of leading his clan’s armed supporters in brutally killing 57 people, including members of the media, in Maguindanao.

Asked why he thinks Ampatuan appears to be very confident against the case hurled against him, the prelate gave a brief response.

“Three fallbacks for him: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, money, and weak justice system,” Cruz opined.

The Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao is known to be close political allies of President Arroyo as it was one of the provinces that gave her the controversial victory in the 2004 presidential race. (MSN/Sunnex)