Zaldy Ampatuan moves back to jail after court order

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 18) — Former regional governor Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the principal accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case, was moved back to his detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig following a court order.

Ampatuan left the Makati Medical Center, where he has been confined since October 21 due to a stroke, in a wheelchair. His return to his cell was ordered a day earlier by a Quezon City court which is set to issue on Thursday its much-awaited verdict on the worst election-related violence in the country.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 said Wednesday the court did not find any reason to allow Ampatuan to continue staying in the hospital. She added his rehabilitation can be done as an out-patient.

In October, Ampatuan was rushed to the hospital for "cardiovascular disease infarction secondary to cardiac dysrhythmia." In November, he filed a comment saying tests revealed he had another stroke and discharging him would put his health at risk.

The court denied Ampatuan's motion to continue staying in the hospital due to lack of merit. However, this could change should his attending physicians execute a decision under oath saying the suspect's life would be in danger should he be returned to jail.

The landmark decision on the Maguindanao massacre case will put an end to an almost decade-long trial. The Maguindanao or Ampatuan massacre on November 23, 2009 left 58 people dead, including 32 media workers, some civilians, and some members of the Mangudadatu family — a rival political family of the Ampatuans.

READ: How the Ampatuans allegedly killed 58 people

Relatives of then-Maguindanao gubernatorial bet Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu — accompanied by a convoy of journalists — were on their way to file his candidacy for the 2010 elections when they were attacked by gunmen, allegedly from the Ampatuan family. The corpses of the victims were found, shallowly buried, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.

READ: How the Ampatuans allegedly killed 58 people

The massacre has been tagged as the world's deadliest single attack against media workers, and the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines.

Zaldy's brother, Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr., is the primary suspect in the case. He was mayor of Datu Unsay town when he and his family's private armed group allegedly shot and decapitated the victims' bodies with chainsaws. Their father, Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr., was also a primary suspect before he died in 2015 due to complications from liver cancer.

One hundred and ninety-seven people have been charged with multiple murder, 15 of whom are members of the powerful Ampatuan clan. Among those charged, 101 will be read their sentence on Thursday while 80 others remain at large. Other accused have died or out on bail.

Last week, the court judge accepted Ampatuan Jr.'s memorandum which wraps up the facts of the case and arguments raised during the trial. Solis-Reyes decided to accept the document as part of the case records "in the higher interest of justice," despite it being filed months after trial ended.