By Non Alquitran (The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines – The grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. was arrested in Las Piñas City Tuesday for his alleged role in the infamous Maguindanao massacre.
Sajid Anwar Ampatuan, alias Datu Ulo, was the 102nd suspect arrested in connection with the Maguindanao massacre since the government started its massive manhunt against the suspects. He has a P250,000 bounty for his capture, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr. said.
Datu Ulo yielded a caliber .45 pistol with two fully loaded magazines when nabbed at the corner of Monina Yllana and Margaret Montinola streets, Purmdi Village, BF Resort at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Pagdilao said the young Ampatuan was positively identified by witnesses as among those who fired at the victims of the Nov. 23, 2009 carnage of 57 people, including Genalyn Tiamson-Mangudadatu, wife of incumbent Maguindanao Gov. Toto Mangudadatu, and 34 journalists.
He was listed as number 5 in the prosecution’s list of accused and has a warrant of arrest for murder issued by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.
Pagdilao said that the arrest of Datu Ulo is the result of the new direction that CIDG tracker teams are following, which focus more on members of the Ampatuan clan who orchestrated the massacre instead of the pawns who just followed orders.
He said an informant led them to Datu Ulo, who fled Maguindanao at the height of a manhunt against the Ampatuan clan and their armed followers.
As this developed, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III told the Senate committee on finance during a hearing on the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed budget yesterday that almost all of the important witnesses against Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son Andal Jr. have already been presented by state prosecutors.
He said that the DOJ is also counting on the Supreme Court to deny the appeal of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan on its ruling upholding the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming his indictment in the case.
Baraan said that the prosecution is also about to terminate its presentation of evidence against Andal Jr.
“Against the principal characters, we can do it (rest our case) by December,” Baraan said.
A total of 111 witnesses have been presented by the prosecution during the trial.
Two of them have been discharged for turning state witness.
Baraan said that 196 persons were accused in the case, 95 of whom are in detention, 76 arraigned and two already dead.
He added that 99 of the accused are still at large.
Committee on finance chairman Sen. Franklin Drilon said that the case against the principal suspects in the Maguindanao massacre serves as a test case on how well the justice system in the country works.
“You can equate trust in governance with trust in the judicial system. This is a challenge for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno because whether we like it or not, the principal source of this disenchantment with the justice system is the long pendency of the Ampatuan case,” Drilon said.
A former justice secretary, Drilon cited three ways to speed up resolution of the case, starting with the holding of four trial days a week.
Baraan said that Judge Solis-Reyes has set three trial days a week for the case, one of which is dedicated to the filing of motions by the lawyers.
Drilon said that there should also be more prosecutors working on the case and if those currently assigned are also handling other cases, these should be given to other lawyers.
Baraan said the case is complicated but not difficult in the sense that there are just too many persons involved and the prosecutors of the case have to work on other assignments.
Chief state prosecutor Claro Arellano said that the prosecutors assigned to the Ampatuan case have already been relieved of their other assignments.
Drilon said that there is a need to augment the government’s prosecutorial staff, especially after the committee was informed that there are currently around 470 unfilled positions.
Around 241 nominees are already with Malacañang, but only 41 have been given appointment papers. – Marvin Sy