A Quezon City court has allowed 17 policemen accused in the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre to post bail.
Regional Trial Court Branch 21 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes set a P200,000 bail for each count, or a hefty P11.6 million for each of the accused policemen to gain temporary liberty.
Reyes said there is no strong evidence against the accused since not one testimony or piece of evidence presented by the prosecution identified or linked them to one of the most gruesome mass killings in the country’s history.
Those granted bail were Police Officer 1 Herich Amaba; PO3 Rasid Anton; PO2 Hernanie Decipulo; PO3 Felix Enate and PO1 Esperielito Lejarso; PO1 Narkouk Mascud; Senior Police Officer 1 Eduardo Ong; PO2 Saudi Pasutan; PO1 Arnulfo Soriano; PO1 Pia Kamidon and PO3 Abibudin Abdulgani; PO2 Hamad Nana; PO1 Esmael Guialal; SPO1 Oscar Donato; PO1 Abdullah Baguadatu; PO2 Saudiar Ulah; and Police Inspector Michael Joy Macaraeg.
The massacre claimed the lives of 58 people and is considered the worst single-day election-related violence in history. Among those killed were 32 journalists.
The victims were part of a convoy of Esmael Mangudadatu’s representatives who went to file his certificate of candidacy against the powerful Ampatuan clan in the gubernatorial race in the 2010 elections.
The victims were mercilessly peppered with bullets by gunmen allegedly led by Datu Unsay Ampataun after being stopped at a checkpoint in Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
More than 100 of the 196 suspects have been arrested, while the rest remain at large almost five years after the killings.
Of those arrested, at least 104 have been arraigned and all pleaded not guilty to the multiple-murder charges.
Among those arraigned are eight prominent members of the Ampatuan clan, including Andal Sr., a former governor of Maguindanao, and three sons, Andal Jr, Zaldy and Sajid.
At best, Solis-Reyes said only Amaba and Macaraeg were seen at the vicinity of Sito Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, where the massacre took place.
Court records showed that Amaba was identified as the one conducting checkpoint operations at the crossing of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, while Macaraeg was seen after the killings in Sitio Malating.
The court found the pieces of evidence against Amaba to be insufficient to show that he actually participated in the mass killing.
In the case of Macaraeg, it said, he was only identified as one of the armed personnel at Sitio Malating checkpoint. None of the witnesses and exhibits presented by the prosecution can describe his actual role in the multiple-murder case.
The court said there is no evidence to show that Macaraeg was part of any plan that led to the commission of the crime.
The accused were members of the 1508th Provincial Mobile Group that set up various checkpoints along Isulan, Cotabato, particularly in Sitio Malating on the day of the massacre.