Massacre case dismissal foretold
It was as if some senators read an oracle on the fate of the civilian massacre case in Maguindanao, a Southern Philippines province, in November last year.
Though governments all over the world deplored the killings, which also took the lives of 32 journalists, the case has lost its momentum. From the time the government lodged murder and rebellion charges against the crime suspects three weeks after the gruesome murders, the legislators “prophesied” the case was doomed for dismissal.
And they were right.
About two weeks ago, (March 29, 2010) a Quezon City Regional Trial Court junked the case for lack of probable cause and ordered the release of Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the main suspects in the massacre.
Judge Vivencio Baclig of Branch 77 also ordered the release of those who were equally accused, including Ampatuan Sr.’s son and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Maguindanao Vice Gov. Datu Akmad Tato Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak Mayor Datu Anwar Ampatuan, and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan.
But freedom will have to wait for them until they can be cleared from all the cases lodged against them…if they get an acquittal at all.
They will have to stay behind bars as they also answer to multiple murder raps before Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, also in Quezon City.
As early as December, 2009, senators have taken turns criticizing the government's decision to file murder and rebellion charges against the suspects.
They stressed the state was committing a mistake for filing rebellion charges because a lot of aspects in that kind of case were missing. Rebellion, they insisted, should be an open, organized and armed resistance to established government.
Some of them even said government had really intended to file a “wrong case” to allow the suspects to go scot-free as they were known to be staunch allies of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Quoting from the Philippine Penal Code, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, in a speech last year, defined the crime of rebellion as “rising publicly and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, or any body of land, naval, or other armed forces, or of depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislative, wholly or partially, of any of their powers and prerogatives.”
She went on to say that another existing law, Proclamation No. 1959, does not even claim there was a state of actual rebellion in the Ampatuan case. This, Santiago stressed, was by itself a fatal flaw.
What the Proclamation claims, she said, was that “heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops.”
“The Constitution does not impose the condition that heavily armed groups have established positions to resist. The Constitution imposes the condition that there is an actual rebellion. Thus, the Proclamation does not comply with the first condition,” the Senator added.
Santiago also said rebellion is a political offense, not a common crime. “The essence of rebellion is ideological motivation, meaning the advocacy that the existing government should be destroyed, by removing citizen allegiance.