CA absolves Ampatuans, allies of rebellion raps

Posted at 01/02/2012 11:09 AM | Updated as of 01/03/2012 10:37 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Members of the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao led by its patriarch Andal Sr. and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao(ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan have been absolved of rebellion charges by the Court of Appeals (CA).

This was after the appellate court junked a petition for review filed by government, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), questioning a Quezon City trial court decision dismissing rebellion raps against them in connection with the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

In a 63-page decision penned by Associate Justice Elihu Ybañez, the appellate court upheld the March 2010 ruling by Judge Vivencio Baclig of Quezon City Regional Trial Court(RTC) Branch 77 finding no probable cause to indict the clan for the said crime.

The appellate court held  that “a judge or fiscal may not go on with the prosecution in hope that some credible evidence might later turn up during trial. The prosecutors may have indeed abused the criminal justice system.”

Aside from Andal Sr. and Zaldy Ampatuan, also cleared  by the CA were Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, and Datu Akmad Tato Ampatuan.

Ampatuan allies Akmad Abdullah Ulilisen, Kusain Akmad Sakilan, Duca Lendungan Amban, Jovel Vista Lopez, Rommy Gimba Mamay, Sammy Duyo Villanueva, Ibrahim Tukya Abdulkadir, Samil Manalao Mindo, Goldo B. Ampatuan, Amaikugao Obab Dalgan, Billy Cabaya Gabriel Jr., Abdulla Kaliangat Ampatuan, Moneb Samir Ibrahim, Umpa Ugka Yarya, Dekay Idra Ulama, Kapid Gabriel Cabaya, Koka Batong Managilid, Sammy Ganda Macabuat and Manding Abdulkadir were also absolved.

However, because of pending multiple murder charges against them in connection with the Maguindanao massacre, the accused will have to stay in jail.

The DOJ, in accusing the Ampatuans of leading the supposed rebellion, claimed the clan was guilty of “conspiring, confederating and cooperating with each other… commanded their followers to rise publicly and take arms against the Republic for the purpose of removing allegiance to the government.”

This, the DOJ claimed, led to the paralysis of operations of the local government and the trial courts.

The appellate court, however, held that none of the Ampatuans' sympathizers were armed during a major rally on November 29, 2009.

As to the allegations of clashes and exchange of gunfire, the appellate court held that “the accused remind us that the information for rebellion was filed on December 9, 2009, whereas the alleged clashes occurred after December 9, 2009, thereby casting a serious constitutionality infirmity upon the information since the facts constitutive of the crime of rebellion took place subsequent to the indictment.”

“Petitioner (OSG) claims that the rebellion continued from November 24, 2009 to February 2010, yet in contrast, the martial law in Maguindanao was lifted on December 12, 2009, signifying that the rebellion had by then been crushed,” the decision further read.

The CA also said that even if the military dug up thousands of firearms in Ampatuan-owned lots, there were no allegations that these had been used against the government.