Court to let massacre suspects post bail

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After 16 police officers implicated in the Maguindanao Massacre case were allowed to post bail a few weeks ago, 25 other accused would also be granted temporary liberty by a Quezon City court if each of them paid P200,000 for the 58 counts of murder that they have been charged with.

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The bail set by Quezon City Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes translates to a total of P11.6 million.

The latest to be allowed to post bail include members of the 1507th Provincial Mobile Group (PMG), particularly those who belong to the so-called SPO1 Solano and SPO2 Labayan groups.

The Solano group is composed of Senior Police Officer 1 Ali Solano, SPO2 Samad Maguindra, PO3 Gibrael Alano, PO3 Felix Daquilos, PO2 Kendatu Rakim, PO2 Datu Jerry Utto, PO1 Marsman Nilong, PO1 Abdulmanan Saavedra, PO1 Jimmy Kadtong, PO1 Abdulbayan Mundas, PO1 Badjun Panegas, PO1 Abdurahman Batarasa and PO1 Marjul Julkadi.

The Labayan group includes SPO2 George Labayan, SPO1 Alimola Guianaton, SPO1 Elizer Rendaje, PO3 Ricky Balanueco, PO2 Rexson Guiama, PO1 Ben-sidick Alfonso, PO1 Pendatun Dima, PO1 Ebara Bebot, PO1 Amir Solaiman, PO1 Tamano Sahibal Hadi, PO1 Michael Macarongon and PO1 Mahamad Balading.

In her order, Reyes noted that 13 of the 25 suspects were not identified by any of the prosecution witnesses as having taken part in the massacre.

“Without belaboring the obvious, the absence of their identification at any part of the narration of the alleged murders cannot yield to a finding of a strong evidence of their guilt,” she said.

Mere identification of the other 12 accused, according to Reyes,  “will not suffice to consider the evidence of their guilt as strong.”

“Evidence extant on record will show that they were conducting checkpoint operations and were present near the scene of the crime. Notably, however, these were the only actions attributable to the identified accused members of the 1507th PMG,” she said.

Reyes also noted that there is nothing on record showing that the police officers had participated in the purported plan to abduct and kill the victims.

“Their act of conducting checkpoint operations, and being found near the scene of the crime, specifically by flagging down vehicles, is not tantamount to a criminal act in itself,” she said.

“It cannot [also]  be said that the said conduct specifically led toward the commission of the alleged murders,” Reyes added.

The conduct of checkpoints in Maguindanao, according to her,  is a regular activity especially during election season.

Reyes said none of the testimonies actually showed that the police officers flagged down any of the vehicles and that it was not established that they performed any active role related to the slaying of the victims.

She pointed out that the grant or denial of bail hinges on the issue of whether the evidence of guilt is strong, “which must be supported by a finding of the facts relied upon to form an opinion on the issue before the court.”

The 41 police officers who were allowed to post bail were among the 197 suspects initially charged in connection with the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre.

A total of 111 suspects have  been arrested, including three whose cases were dismissed and  one who died in detention.

Around 20 other suspects have pending petitions for bail, including members of the Ampatuan political clan.

Lawyers for accused Zaldy Ampatuan are y presenting their evidence in support of his bail petition.

Also expected to present evidence in the bail hearings are primary accused Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Fifty-eight people, including 32 media practitioners, died in the Maguindanao Massacre dubbed as the single deadliest incident for journalists in  world history.

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