THE Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC) ruling granting bail to Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, one of the 197 accused in the Maguindanao massacre case.
The CA junked the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration and asserted its January 30, 2016 decision allowing bail for Sajid, son of the late former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr.
In a four-page resolution by Associate Justice Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob, the CA denied the plea of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for a reversal of two orders issued by QC-RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Reyes dated January 9, 2015 and March 6, 2015 which granted the younger Ampatuan’s motions to post bail.
Sajid was released from jail in March 2015 after posting a P200,000 bail bond per case or a total of P11.6 million for 58 counts of murder in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.
The appeals court found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of Reyes when she allowed Sajid to post bail. It opined that the trial judge must be given elbow room in the exercise of his/her judgment.
“We defer to the findings of the public respondent particularly because of her unique position to directly observe the demeanor of a witness while testifying on the stand. From its vantage point, the court a quo is in the best position to determine the truthfulness of witness,” the CA said.
“The records show that a hearing on the application for bail was conducted and that the prosecution was given ample opportunity to present evidence in support of its opposition to [Ampatuan’s] motions for bail,” it averred.
In the Reyes ruling, it was stated that Sajid’s mere presence during the meetings with the other accused, including his father and other members of their clan, does not translate to a conclusion of a strong evidence of guilt.
It pointed out that the DOJ failed to state any legal basis to anchor its claim of conspiracy among Sajid and the others accused.
In what was tagged as the “gruesome massacre of the century,” the Ampatuan clan was charged for masterminding the Maguindanao massacre, which took 58 lives, including 32 members of the media, to derail the political plans of rival Esmael Mangudadatu, now incumbent governor of Maguindanao, during the 2010 elections. Mangudadatu’s wife, who with relatives and other companions, was on her way to submit her husband’s certificate of candidacy to Comelec when they were ambushed.
Meanwhile, a separate division of the CA, also affirmed the lower court’s ruling granting bail to 16 policemen of the 1508th Provincial Mobile Group who were among the 198 accused in the Maguindanao massacre.
Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez, of the CA’s 10th Division, denied the petition of government prosecutors seeking the reversal of the RTC order which granted bail to accused police officers saying the lower court committed no grave abuse of discretion.
Granted bail were Police Officer (PO) 1 Heirich Amaba, PO3 Rasid Anton, PO3 Felix Enate, PO1 Esprielito Lejarso, PO1 Narkouk Mascud, SPO1 Eduardo Hong, PO2 Saudi Pasuta, PO1 Arnulfo Soriano, PO1 Pia Kamidon, PO3 Abibudin Abdulgani, PO2 Hamad Nana, PO1 Esmael Guilal, PO1 Abdullah Baguadatu, PO2 Saudiar Ulah, Senior Police Officer 1 Oscar Donato and Insp. Michael Joy Macaraeg.