Where are state prosecutors in this?

Aug. 24, 2018

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is concerned to learn that one of the principal accused in the multiple murder case filed over the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre was allowed to leave detention to attend a social event on Tuesday, August 21, 2018.

This was learned only through Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali who posted on social media a picture of herself with former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

The caption read: “Alhamdulilla with my former Boss Former RG Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan during the wedding ceremony of his eldest daughter Bai Nur Aila.”

Rep. Sahali also posted video from the wedding, which she indicated was held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.

While we may understand a parent’s desire to be present at such an important milestone in the life of a child, we stress that the crime of which Mr. Ampatuan is accused of is of such a heinous nature that the shock and outrage it stirred around the world forced then President Gloria Arroyo to move against the powerful clan that was among her staunchest allies.

Almost nine years after the rampage that claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers, no one has yet been convicted. Yet a principal accused, Sajid Ampatuan, was granted bail. That and now this, we feel, gives us and the victims’ families more than enough cause to worry about whether we can truly expect justice for this most grievous of crimes.

We all know that most people accused of lesser offenses almost never get to enjoy a privilege as that granted Zaldy Ampatuan. What made him an exception to the rule?

Surely, his camp would have had to petition the court well in advance. Where were the state prosecutors in all this? Did they contest the petiton? Perhaps, more importantly, did they even inform the families of the victims and other parties to the case?

At the very least, the prosecution owes the public a full account and credible explanation.

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