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COTABATO CITY, Philippines – A powerful blast ripped through a commercial area here yesterday afternoon, killing a passerby and causing injuries to nine others, including a six-year-old girl.
Senior Superintendent Roberto Badian, city police chief, said investigators were now validating reports that two men left a bag supposedly containing the improvised explosive on a seat of a parked motorcycle and hurriedly left before the blast.
The bomb went off in front of the city’s biggest gun store, the Cotabato Weapons and Tactics, shattering the glass panes of the store and nearby establishments.
The lone fatality was identified as Jimmy Ali, a commercial photographer.
Badian said some of those wounded were passengers of vehicles passing by the blast site.
Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema, who was among the first to reach the scene, condemned the bombing, which marred the second day of the observance of Ramadan.
By Julie M. Aurelio – Philippine Daily Inquirer
A Quezon City court has allowed ex-governor Zaldy Ampatuan to undergo a medical checkup outside jail but the hospital he was supposed to be brought to has refused to take him because of the security risk.
In a July 15 order, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of QC Regional Trial Court Branch 221 directed that Ampatuan be brought to St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, as an outpatient and not as an admitted patient as he had requested.
Quezon City Jail Annex warden Senior Insp. Edgar Camus was supposed to bring Ampatuan to the SLMC.
But in a manifestation he filed on Monday, Ampatuan’s lawyer, Redemberto Villanueva, told the court the hospital had declined to take his client.
“Arrangements were made for the [checkup] with the hospital. However, due to the recent exposés (made by Ampatuan), St. Luke’s Global City has refused to accept him as an outpatient due to security risks,” Villanueva said.
He added that SLMC invoked its “right as a private hospital to do so” where “security risks” are involved.
The former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor ended up not being examined by a private doctor.
The request for hospitalization came after Chief Insp. Agnes Aglipay of the health service unit of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Metro Manila recommended that Ampatuan be treated in a “hospital setting.”
Jail doctors had discovered that Ampatuan “has coronary heart disease and poorly controlled diabetes mellitus that needs immediate evaluation and prompt treatment.”
List of tests
Among the tests that Aglipay said Ampatuan needed to undergo were an ECG, two-dimensional echocardiography, peripheral arterial and venous duplex scan, endothelial function test, 24-hour Holter monitoring, carotid duplex scan, complete blood chemistry including high sensitivity C-reactive protein, and myocardial perfusion imaging.
These tests are not available in the jail clinic.
Ampatuan set off a series of exposés in the past week, ranging from what he knows about the Nov. 23, 2009, Maguindanao massacre being pinned on his family to the election fraud allegedly committed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other ranking government officials in the 2004 and 2007 elections.
Ampatuan has also reportedly sought to turn state’s evidence against his relatives in the Maguindanao massacre where 57 people were killed in the worst case of election violence in the country.
He is being held in a separate cell from his fellow accused, who include his own father Andal Sr. and brother Andal Jr. He has not yet been arraigned for his alleged participation in the massacre.
By Jerome Aning, Nikko Dizon, Norman Bordadora – Philippine Daily Inquirer
Zaldy Ampatuan, along with Lintang Bedol, may yet get his wish to be a state witness—in a possible election sabotage case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but not in the Maguindanao massacre, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday.
De Lima spoke to reporters a day after Bedol claimed in an interview broadcast on ABS-CBN TV four years after he went into hiding that then President Arroyo had orchestrated the rigging of the 2007 senatorial elections in Maguindanao to favor her candidates.
“That is a new case, a totally different case and we can consider them, or whoever, if it is Zaldy Ampatuan or Lintang Bedol. It would depend on the extent of their participation,” De Lima said, referring to the alleged poll rigging.
The interview with Bedol was aired after Zaldy, the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), claimed in an unsigned affidavit that Arroyo had ordered the vote-padding for Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was elected senator.
Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento on Thursday said that Bedol, a former poll supervisor in Maguindanao, faced immediate arrest.
“We are happy that he has showed up because it’s time for him to answer the cases filed against him. The police said they could not find him. For us, it’s good if he shows up to answer these cases so that justice will prevail,” Sarmiento said at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Zaldy has caused the release of unsigned affidavits alleging that then President Arroyo not only ordered the rigging of elections in Maguindanao, but that she also received P200 million in kickbacks in three road projects in the ARMM during her administration.
The allegations were made amid an attempt by the former ARMM governor to turn state witness in the massacre of 58 people in 2009 and testify against his father, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his brother Andal Jr.
The three are among 79 people detained in connection with the murders.
De Lima has rejected Zaldy’s offer to turn state’s witness in the massacre.
In a meeting in Malacañang Thursday night with families of victims of the massacre, President Aquino sought to give assurance that there had yet been no deal on Zaldy’s offer to turn state witness in the massacre case.
“The position of the department, and this has been affirmed by the President, is that for now we’re not open for him to become a state witness,” De Lima said in a news conference after the meeting.
De Lima stressed that Zaldy did not qualify to be a state witness for now because he had yet to confess to any wrongdoing as a conspirator in the massacre. She added that there had been no formal offer for Zaldy to become state witness.
“When it comes to the massacre case, we have to be very careful because you cannot sacrifice this trial for anything. Because this is supposed to be the trial of the century, the litmus test of the Philippine criminal justice system,” De Lima said.
“The President categorically said that if the prosecution has no basis (for Zaldy) to be a state witness, then so be it,” said Nena Santos, counsel for Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who led a group of 26 relatives of the massacre victims to the Palace.
“The President assured us the fight for the Maguindanao massacre victims will continue. Definitely, he will side with us,” said Mangudadatu, who lost his wife and sister in the 2009 carnage.
Totally different case
De Lima said in the earlier news conference that the election sabotage was a “totally different case” and that she would consider either Zaldy or Bedol as state witness depending on their participation in the crime that carries a penalty of life imprisonment.
De Lima had served as counsel for lawyer Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano in the Maguindanao senatorial poll rigging. Pimentel lost the 12th Senate slot to Zubiri by a slim margin. His election is still under litigation after a Pimentel protest.
Asked if Bedol’s resurfacing was “crucial,” De Lima replied in the affirmative.
“I know that matter very well,” she said, referring to Bedol’s admission in the TV interview of vote-shaving and -padding in the 2007 balloting. “We knew that all along. We’ve been saying that all along,” De Lima said.
De Lima also vouched for Commissioner Sarmiento, who Bedol said was among the Comelec officials led by then Chairman Benjamin Abalos and Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, who had authenticated during a trip to General Santos City the municipal certificates of canvass from Maguindanao at the height of the controversy.
De Lima disputed the claim of Bedol, who had said that the original certificates had gone missing, and that Sarmiento was in General Santos City at the time.
Bedol subject to arrest
Asked how trustworthy and credible Zaldy and Bedol were, De Lima said these were part of the “assessment, the plausibility” that the President had ordered on the allegations of corruption and electoral fraud.
“Why are they speaking only now? Why did they surface only now? You ask them why,” De Lima said.
She recalled that after the fact-finding mission in General Santos City, she and other election lawyers had to go to Maguindanao for the recanvassing of votes from the province.
Sarmiento said Bedol would be subject to immediate arrest, citing a Comelec contempt order after he failed to show up in a hearing after the 2007 vote.
“Any law enforcement agency can implement the warrant of arrest and order of commitment,” said Sarmiento, who also denied Bedol’s claim that he was part of the team that went to General Santos.
In a separate news conference, Abalos denied Bedol’s claim that he had a hand in the cheating in Maguindanao. He said that Bedol’s allegation that the team had “authenticated” fake poll returns was “untrue.”
Abalos said that certificates of canvas were placed in a box, sealed and shipped out immediately to the board of canvassers. “How could we have authenticated these documents as Bedol alleges.”
Zubiri denied involvement in the vote-padding.
“I swear to all of you that if ever fraud happened, I had nothing to do with it. I have not talked to anybody to count the votes in my favor,” Zubiri said.
Speaking for his son, former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. called on Zubiri to resign.
“If the foundation of your being in the Senate is fraudulent, then you have no business being in the Senate whether you like it or not,” Pimentel said.—With reports from TJ Burgonio, Kristine Felisse Mangunay, DJ Yap and Cynthia D. Balana
Blogger: Ron Edrote
THE Court of Appeals extended for another six months the freeze order on the bank accounts of members of the feared Ampatuan clan, whose senior members were tagged as masterminds in the grisly killing of 57 journalists and civilians in Maguindanao.
The CA junked the clan’s appeal to lift the freeze order it previously ordered for lack of merit. The court extended until December 2 its order freezing the family’s alleged ill-gotten wealth amounting to more than P1 billion.
“A freeze order is an extraordinary provisional relief provided by law, which does not depend on the pendency of a regular action as one of the incidents,” the appeals court explained.
The freeze order was against 28 members of the Ampatuan clan led by its patriarch Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Putu Ampatuan and several others.
The order covers entities such as Deal Gems and Jewelries Pawnshop and Maguindanao Electric Coop (Magelco) believed to be owned by the Ampatuans.
Also covered are government agencies and banking institutions such as Allied Banking Corporation, Banco de Oro, Unibank, Inc., Bank of the Philippine Islands, BPI Family Savings Bank, Coop Bank of Cotabato, Development Bank of the Philippines, East West Banking Corporation, Equicom Savings Bank, Inc., Equitable Card Network, Inc., Equitable PCI Bank, Land Bank of the Philippines, Metrobanl Car Corporation, Metropolitan Bank and trust Company, One Network RB, Inc., Philam Equitable Life Assurance Company.
Philippine AXA Life Insurance Corporation, Philippine National Bank, Philippine Savings Bank, Planters Development Bank, PruLife Insurance Corporation of UK, RCBC Savings Bank, RizalCommercial Banking Corporation, Security Bank Corporation, Standard Chartered Bank, Sterling Bank of Asia, Inc., Toyota Financial Services Philippine Corporation, Union Bank of the Philippines, United Coconut Planters Bank, Philippine National Police Firearms and Explosives Office, Land Transportation Office, Register Deeds of Davao City, Register Deeds of Maguindanao and/or Cotabato City and Province of Maguindanao.
Source Hector Lawas http://www.journal.com.ph
By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Philip C. Tubeza - Philippine Daily Inquirer
The deal was called off even before it was finalized.
Members of the legal team of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan on Thursday said their jailed client was no longer planning to turn state witness to pin down his father and brother Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Jr. in the Maguindanao massacre case.
Zaldy Ampatuan’s lawyers had planned to make the announcement this week that he would become a hostile witness but the idea was scuttled because President Aquino and senior members of his Cabinet were cool to the offer, according to a government source.
On the phone with the Inquirer, Ampatuan lawyer Kristine Esguerra said the former governor’s turning state witness “will be impossible since it will mean he is the least guilty or somewhat guilty.”
“The governor has maintained his innocence of the crime. From conception to execution, the governor had no participation whatsoever,” she said.
Esguerra issued the denial amid persistent talk that Zaldy Ampatuan’s camp had sent feelers to Malacañang through Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo that he would apply for inclusion in the Department of Justice’s witness protection program to clinch the massacre case for the government.
But the government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said that in accepting Zaldy Ampatuan as a state witness, the President wanted no conditions imposed on the government.
The source said top Cabinet officials had also warned Mr. Aquino against accepting Zaldy Ampatuan as a state witness because, they said, there was no guarantee that his testimony would convict his father and brother.
The Cabinet officials were also purportedly wary that the testimony could even jeopardize the case.
The source claimed that Zaldy Ampatuan’s lawyers had met informally with government officials in the past weeks to brief them on what he was willing to say in court, and that the former governor’s gambit was an effort to save the family legacy.
The government, however, wanted him to leave nothing out in his testimony and to identify all of the family’s ill-gotten assets as well as the deals hatched between the family and its patron, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the source said.
But Redemberto Villanueva, another of Zaldy Ampatuan’s lawyers, reiterated his denial that his client was about to turn state witness against the other accused in the massacre of at least 57 civilians, including 32 media workers, on Nov. 23, 2009, in Maguindanao.
Villanueva insisted that his client had no knowledge of the planning of the massacre and the actual killings.
“We cannot lie. We do not tell our clients to lie,” Villanueva said after Thursday’s hearing of the case.
Asked about the reported rift between Zaldy Ampatuan and his father, the lawyer said: “That was six months ago. They are now together. They are [detained] in one building. ”
He said Ampatuan Sr. and the former governor had a relationship like any other “father and son,” and declined to reply when asked if the ties between the two men were now cordial or civil.
‘We don’t need him’
During a break in the hearing at Camp Bagong Diwa’s maximum security prison in Taguig City, private prosecutor Nena Santos said the prosecution had enough witnesses and did not need Zaldy Ampatuan’s testimony to win the case.
“In so far as we are concerned, we don’t need his testimony especially if it’s only to exculpate himself … We don’t need him,” said Santos, counsel of the Mangudadatus.
“We have many witnesses to prove that there was conspiracy,” she said.
Santos said that if ever Zaldy Ampatuan would implicate a “big fish,” it would concern other cases. And as of yesterday, she said, there was still no formal offer from his camp for him to testify for the prosecution.
“These are rumors. All these reports [that he will be turning state witness] are still speculation because we have not received any [formal] offer,” she said.
But if Zaldy Ampatuan does formally apply to become a government witness, the prosecution panel will review his testimony.
“It will depend on his proposed testimony. All of the accused have a right to apply to become a government witness,” Santos said. “We will look into the materiality of his proposed testimony, if there is any.”
Let him prove it
Some members of the House of Representatives weighed in on the purported plan for Zaldy Ampatuan to turn state witness.
Said Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez: “One of the conditions is that the applicant is the least guilty and his testimony is necessary for the conviction of the others principally accused. There are many witnesses with direct testimonies here, so Zaldy is not necessary.”
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, vice chair of the House committee on justice, said it was up to Zaldy Ampatuan to prove that he deserved to be a state witness and that his testimony was crucial to convict the accused.
Rep. Neri Colmenares of party-list group, Bayan Muna, said the evidence in the case was so overwhelming as to make the former governor’s testimony superfluous.
Colmenares said what the case needed was a quicker pace in the proceedings so that a verdict would be reached as soon as possible.
Villanueva disputed reports that Zaldy Ampatuan had moved to another prison cell because of a quarrel with his father.
“It has nothing to do with that. He was transferred because of his medical condition. These are just rumors,” the lawyer said.
Villanueva on Thursday asked Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to allow his client to stay at St. Luke’s Medical Center for at least five days for 12 medical tests for diabetes and another 12 for high blood pressure.
Reyes gave the prosecution until Friday to submit a formal comment.
“[My client] needs at least five days because there are preparations that have to be made for each test, and these could last for eight to 12 hours,” Villanueva said.
“He has shortness of breath. We are concerned that it might become worse and so we have to bring him to the hospital because the doctors need special equipment to conduct these tests,” the lawyer said. But Santos was not impressed.
“He’s a flight risk. And with all these rumors, the timing of his motion is suspect,” she said. “We will insist that he be arraigned first.”
Santos also said that if the former governor really needed to be examined for his ailments, the tests could be conducted in the maximum security prison.
THE PUBLIC will be able to witness a massacre trial over the Internet upon orders of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, the court said yesterday.
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 June) – “Happy and thankful” was how Reynafe Momay-Castillo, daughter of the 58th victim of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre, felt when she learned of the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision today allowing for a live coverage of the twice-weekly trial of the case.
“We now have what we want which is to have a live coverage of the trial,” she told MindaNews.
The remains of Castillo’s father, Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, photographer of the Midland Review in Tacurong City, have yet to be recovered. Only his dentures were found in the massacre site.
Voting unanimously, the Supreme Court today partially granted pro hac vice (for this one particular occasion) the request for live broadcast by television and radio of the trial court proceedings of the Ampatuan Massacre cases “subject to the guidelines set by the Court,” the Supreme Court said in a news release posted on its website.
In a 15-page resolution penned by Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, the Court said: “It is about time to craft a win-win situation that shall not compromise rights in the criminal administration of justice, sacrifice press freedom and allied rights, and interfere with the integrity, dignity and solemnity of judiciary proceedings.”
The petitions for live coverage were filed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, GMA Network, Inc., relatives of the victims, individual journalists from various media entities, and members of the academe. The court also considered the November 22, 2010 letter of President Aquino to Chief Justice Renato Corona in support of those petitioned.
The court also outlined guidelines for the live coverage of the trial, among them, that a single fixed compact camera shall be installed inconspicuously inside the courtroom by the SC’s Public Information Office, “to provide a single wide-angle full-view of the sala of the trial court.” Other cameras will take the live feed from this camera.
Rowena Paraan, secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said “it’s a historic decision given that before this, all jurisprudence were against the petition. It sets a precedent, kahit pa sabihing (even if they say) it is being applied only to this case, and hopefully will serve as first step in bringing transparency in the courts and will help in the struggle for justice for massacre victims.”
Red Batario, executive director of the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), said that by allowing live coverage, “the Supreme Court has put premium on the people’s right to know and the media’s role in fulfilling its duty to serve public interest.”
“The SC decision is a most welcome development and should be seen as a triumph of justice and the fulfillment of basic human rights,” Batario added.
The decision is a “very heartwarming development,” said Aquiles Zonio, correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer who, along with two other journalists, was supposed to join the convoy of media workers and relatives of then Buluan vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu en route to the Commission on Elections provincial office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.
The convoy, led by Mangudadatu’s wife and sisters, was supposed to file the vice mayor’s certificate of candidacy for governor of Maguindanao. Mangudadatu himself was dissuaded from going to the area to avoid trouble with his former ally, Andal Ampatuan Sr., the three-term governor since 2001, who was supposed to field his son, Andal Ampatuan Jr., to run for governor.
“Now the whole country can witness the trial live,” Zonio said.
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan lauded the Supreme Court’s decision. Pangilinan in November 2010 filed Resolution 186 calling for a live coverage of the trials, noting that “it would be in the best interest of our judiciary to have transparency in the judicial process, especially in such an unprecedented case of brutality.”
“We believe that having live coverage would help in the process of speedy dispensation of justice as the whole world will be watching,” Pangilinan said of the SC decision. “Such transparency will help uphold the reputation of our courts and will eliminate doubts in the minds of our countrymen. The trial has dragged on for more than a year and the victims and their families are hungry for justice. This is a step towards the right direction,” he said.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, is presiding over the trial.
The Supreme Court’s guidelines, posted on its website:
- An audio-visual recording of the Maguindanao massacre cases may be made both for documentary purposes and for transmittal to live broadcast broadcasting;
- Media entities must file with the trial court a letter of application, manifesting that they intend to broadcast the audio-visual recording (AVR) of the proceedings; no selective or partial coverage shall be allowed and no media entity shall be allowed to broadcast the proceedings without an application duly approved by the trial court;
- A single fixed compact camera shall be installed inconspicuously inside the courtroom to provide a single wide-angle full-view of the sala of the trial court; no panning and zooming shall be allowed to avoid unduly highlighting or downplaying incidents in the proceedings; The SC Public Information Office and the Office of the Court Administrator shall coordinate and assist the trial court on the physical set-up of the camera and equipment;
- The transmittal of the AVR from inside the courtroom to the media entities shall be conducted in such a way that the least physical disturbance shall be ensured;
- The broadcasting of the proceedings for a particular day must be continuous and in its entirety;
- No commercial break or any other gap shall be allowed until the day’s proceedings are adjourned, except during the period of recess call by the trial court and during portions of the proceedings wherein the public is ordered excluded;
- The proceedings shall be broadcast without any voice-overs, except brief annotations of scenes depicted therein as may be necessary to explain them at the start or at the end of the scene;
- No repeat airing of the AVR shall be allowed until after the finality of judgment, except brief footages and still images derived from or cartographic sketches of scenes based on the recording, only for news purposes, which shall likewise observe the sub judice rule and be subject to the contempt power of the court;
- The original AVR shall be deposited in the National Museum and the Records Management and Archives Office for preservation and exhibition; and
- The AVR of the proceedings shall be made under the supervision and control of the trial court.
A special committee will be created by the Supreme Court to “forthwith study, design, and recommend appropriate arrangements, implementing regulations, and administrative matters referred to it by the Court concerning the live broadcast of the proceedings pro hac vice, in accordance with the above-outlined guidelines.”
Earlier guidelines set by the trial court such as prohibition on recording devices such as still cameras, tape recorders; and allowable number of media practitioners inside the courtroom will continue to be observed.
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court is allowing live media coverage of the Maguindanao massacre trial on the condition that only the Supreme Court camera will be allowed inside the courtroom with live feed distributed to media.
Dubbed as the worst election-related violence in the country, the massacre on November 23, 2009 left 58 people dead, mostly journalists.
The principal suspects are former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons, Andal Jr. and Zaldy.
The murders occurred as relatives of then Buluan Vice-Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu were on their way to Shariff Aguak to file Mangudadatu’s candidacy for Maguindanao governor, challenging the candidacy of Andal Jr.