MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) granted Tuesday the Justice department’s petition to have the rebellion case against members of a political clan in Mindanao transferred to a regional trial court in Manila.

SC spokesman and Deputy Court Administrator Lawyer Jose Midas Marquez said the rebellion case against former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and three of his sons will have to be raffled from Cotabato City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to Quezon City RTC for hearing.

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The decision was met following an en banc session Tuesday, granting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera’s petition that was anchored on security concerns and the influence exerted by the Ampatuan family in Cotabato City.

Devanadera said she wants to ensure the proper dispensation of justice, which might not be seen if the rebellion charges will be heard in Cotabato due to the perceived influence of the Ampatuans over Maguindanao province.

Charged for rebellion were Ampatuan Sr., Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) former governor Zaldy Ampatuan, former Acting Maguindanao governor Sajid Ampatuan, Akmad Ampatuan, and Anwar Ampatuan, among others.

Marquez said the case against the four Ampatuans and several of their supporters is totally different from that of the multiple murder case filed against Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and several prominent members of the Ampatuan clan.

Ampatuan Jr. is the prime suspect of the November 23 massacre killing at least 57 people, including 30 journalists, in Maguindanao province. He was arrested three days after the carnage and is now detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila.

On Tuesday, the Datu Unsay mayor appealed to the government and court for a fair trial while maintaining his innocence to the crime.

"I only asked one thing, a fair trial. I am 100 percent sure that I will win this case if only I will be afforded with fair trial,” he said in Filipino.

The murder charges against Ampatuan Jr. are now being heard before the sala of Quezon City RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.

His father and other members of his family, on the other hand, are still awaiting the resolution to the preliminary investigation for multiple murder conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

As of Tuesday, some members of the Ampatuan clan are still facing the rebellion charges that were filed by the DOJ last December 9, 2009 before the Cotabato RTC in connection with their alleged acts of rising up in arms against government troops last November 28 in the wake of Ampatuan Jr.’s arrest.

State prosecutors said that the Ampatuans and their supporters conspired with one another to rise publicly and take arms against the Republic, “for the purpose of removing allegiance to the government and its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines.”

According to DOJ prosecutors, the province-wide threat to public security were due to the orders of Ampatuan Sr. and Zaldy, in reaction to the arrest of Ampatuan Jr., noting the massive formations of numerous armed civilians supported by armored vehicles and under the command of the powerful political clan.

“Ampatuan Sr. directed his private armies to combat the government to death. Zaldy Ampatuan directed his people to organize a rally to trigger the government and that his constituents are ready to support them and fight for them,” the resolution stated.

State prosecutors also said that there were no prosecutors available to conduct the inquest and preliminary investigations relative to the murder, while local government officials are also nowhere to be found.

Most of their employees went on mass leave and their respective offices were either closed or not functioning, so that the local Civil Registrar refused to issue the Death Certificate of the victims of the massacre, a state prosecutor said.

The DOJ also pointed out that the substitute judge of the Cotabato RTC Branch 15, which has jurisdiction over the site of the massacre, is related by affinity to the Ampatuan family.

The judge, likewise, refused to accept the application for search warrants for violation of PD 1866 (illegal possession of firearms) to authorize the search of properties of the Ampatuan families. There was undue delay in the issuance of court processes despite the exigency of the situation, the state prosecutors reported.

Earlier, at the preliminary investigation for rebellion against the 600 other respondents, the panel granted the request of defense lawyers for additional 10 days within which to file their counter-affidavits and submit other evidence for their defense.

State Prosecutor Lamberto Fabros gave the respondents until January 22 to submit any additional evidence and counter-affidavits, after which the case would be deemed submitted for resolution. (JCV/With PNA/Sunnex)