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Philippine Massacre Suspects Ordered Released

GMANews.TV, Sophia Dedace Posted: Mar 30, 2010

MANILA, Philippines -- A Quezon City court on Monday ordered the release of several Ampatuan clan members, including its patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., after it found no probable cause to indict them for rebellion.

Those ordered released were former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Datu Akmad Tato Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan.

"The court is convinced that there exists no probable cause to hold under detention and to indict the accused for rebellion," said Judge Vivencio Baclig of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 77 in his 18-page order.

The Ampatuans, a powerful political family in Central Mindanao, have been blamed for the massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao province last November 23.

On Dec. 4, 2009, Malacaang placed Maguindanao under martial rule to contain an armed uprising allegedly being plotted by the Ampatuans to prevent authorities from arresting them. The declaration was lifted after eight days after the arrest of the suspects.

Judge Baclig said the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed to provide evidence to support their claim of rebellion against the Ampatuans and hundreds of their supporters. He added that the reported amassing of several armed caches by the Ampatuans "cannot be considered an act of rebellion."

The court said that there was no documentary evidence submitted by the prosecution showing that private armed groups loyal to the Ampatuans were massing up to resist government authorities in case members of the clan are arrested.

Despite the release order, the accused will have to stay in detention because of the pending multiple murder case filed against them in connection with the massacre.

Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said QC-RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes has a continued detention order against the accused.

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