DETAINED former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and other clan members facing rebellion charges will not be transferred to Manila for the hearing just yet, the court said Friday.
This came as the motion to defer the transfer of detention was reset to February 9, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 77 announced in a makeshift courtroom at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame.
Judge Vivencio Baclig ruled in favor of the arguments presented by Ampatuans’ lead counsel Philip Sigfrid Fortun when he reasoned that the court could not make any ruling on the transfer of detention just yet since it has to act on an earlier motion by the Ampatuan camp to first determine probable cause against the accused.
“The presence or absence of probable cause should first be determined before commitment order can be issued. At this point it is premature (to decide), hence the urgent motion to defer,” Fortun said.
State prosecutors, meanwhile, argued the reverse, saying the motion to defer the transfer should be decided before the determination of probable cause. They also proposed February 12 for the hearing of the motion of detention transfer but the court denied it.
Fortun also argued that his clients were deprived of the provisions stated in sections 14 and 16 of Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution and that his clients have been detained since Dec.5, 2009 without probable cause.
Section 14 states that, “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.”
Section 16, on the other hand, states: “All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.”
The defense counsel likewise asked Judge Baclig to cite the prosecution panel, specifically State Prosecutor Lamberto Fabros for contempt for failing to attend the January 7 hearing at the Cotabato City Regional Trial Court.
But the prosecution maintained they have received a fax copy of the notice that was blurred and incomprehensible.
The Supreme Court on January 12 granted the petition of Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera to transfer the rebellion trial in Manila due to security concerns.
The following are charged for rebellion, along with 17 others, for allegedly trying to subvert the National Government’s authority in the province: suspended Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Ampatuan Sr., suspended Shariff Aguak Mayor Datu Anwar, Datu Akmad Tato, and suspended acting Maguindanao Governor Sajid Islam.
The other two members of the clan facing rebellion charges are Goldo Ampatuan and Abdulla Kaliangat Ampatuan to which they face the penalty of reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment) if found guilty of the non-bailable crime.
Specifically, the merits of the case said there was a supposed plan of the Ampatuan clan to take up arms against the government – as shown by the discovery of hidden firearms in Mindanao and alleged massing up of the family's supporters.
The case stemmed from the alleged involvement of the powerful clan to the November 23 massacre, where 57 people were killed, including 32 journalists, in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. The killings are considered the worst political violence in Philippine history.
Andal Sr. is detained at the Camp Panacan Hospital in Davao City while Zaldy is detained at Camp Lira in General Santos City. The other Ampatuans are detained at Camp Siongco in Maguindanao.
The younger Ampatuan, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Jr., is now being detained at the National Bureau of Investigation, who pleaded not guilty for 56 counts of murder. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)