Palace, Maguindanao victims' kin dismayed by Ampatuan furlough

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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 23) — Malacañang and the families of the victims killed in the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre decried the court ruling which allowed the suspect's temporary leave.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the presence of Cabinet members in the wedding of the daughter of former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan has no implication in his pending case. Ampatuan was granted furlough for three hours on Tuesday following a ruling from the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

"Officially, the panel of prosecutors and the President joins them (to) oppose that motion and we're dismayed that it was granted," Roque said in a press briefing Tuesday.

An official list of principal sponsors of the wedding included Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, and Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte was also included in the list.

 

A statement from the Justice Now Movement, a group of families of the 32 media men killed, also condemned the furlough granted to Ampatuan.

"Isang insultong hindi katanggap-tanggap para sa amin na malaman na ang isa sa mga nagplano ng karumal-dumal na krimen ay makalalanghap ng hangin ng kalayaan kahit sa maikling panahon para makasama ang kanyang pamilya, isang bagay na habambuhay na ipinagkait sa amin," it read.

[Translation: What an unfathomable insult for us to know that one of those behind this gruesome crime can get a whiff of freedom by being given a right to spend time with his family, a right he has taken away from us.]

The kin of those killed also asked the court if they could still serve justice.

"Tanong din namin sa korte: Patas at makatarungan ba na bigyan si Zaldy Ampatuan ng pribilehiyong hindi makamit ng ibang presong may mas magagaang na kaso? Makaaasa pa ba kami ng katarungan para sa aming mga mahal sa buhay?" it said.

[Translation: We ask the court: Is it fair to grant Zaldy Ampatuan the privilege not all prisoners have despite their cases being less serious? Can we even expect justice for our loved ones?]

The families added if they've only known that Ampatuan appealed for the furlough, they would have done everything to stop it.

Another suspect, Akmad "Tato" Ampatuan was also allowed to attend his daughter's wedding in Taguig City on March 18, 2017.

The 2009 massacre that left 58 people dead — journalists, civilians, and members of the Mangudadatu family which is a rival political family of the Ampatuans — prompted then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare martial law in Maguindanao for more than a week.