Ampatuans head to CA to appeal Maguindanao massacre convictions

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Brothers Datu Andal “Unsay” and Zaldy Ampatuan are heading straight to the Court of Appeals to contest their conviction for 57 counts of murder for planning and executing the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

The Ampatuans have served notice to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 that they will elevate the case to the appellate court, asking the lower court to submit all the records of the case to the CA.

Three relatives — Anwar Ampatuan Sr., and his sons Anwar "Datu Ipi" Ampatuan Jr. and Datu Anwar Sajid "Datu Ulo" Ampatuan — filed motions for reconsideration before the Quezon City court, casting doubt on the credibility of star witness Sukarno Badal.

"As to how the said witness could have memorized, precisely to the letter, all of the statements made by each and every supposed participant in all of these meetings, is highly doubtful, nay miraculous," Anwar Sr. said through his lawyers in his 13-page motion filed Thursday.

Meanwhile, Datu Ipi and Datu Ulo argued through their lawyers in a separate 16-page motion filed Thursday that Badal only testified that they were seen at one of the meetings, but did not mention what their involvement was. They also noted that Badal recanted his testimony during cross examination that the two were present during the November 16, 2009 meeting.

They also said the court should not have relied heavily on Badal's testimony which pinned them as one of the gunmen who helped in the killing of 57 people.

"This particular witness lied with respect to a material point, and there was a conscious and deliberate intention to falsify," Datu Ipi and Datu Ulo said.

Badal was the vice mayor of Sultan Sabarongis town in Maguindanao when the massacre happened. He identified himself to be the commander of the Ampatuan family's private armed group.

Mere conjectures?

Anwar Sr., through his lawyers, argued that there is not enough evidence to prove that he was part of the conspiracy to kill now-Maguindanao Rep. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu. He said the court appears to have been swayed solely by his alleged statement during a November 16, 2009 meeting agreeing to kill members of the Mangudadatu clan.

The Quezon City court agreed that Anwar Sr. was not at the scene of the crime on November 23, 2009, but said that his suggestion to kill the Mangudadatus and to bury their vehicles "was one of the moving factors which emboldened all the more Datu [Andal] Unsay [Ampatuan] and their other cohorts in carrying out their wicked plan," noting that this was even "carried out to the letter."

Anwar Sr., however, dismissed this as "speculative" and "mere conjectures." He also again denied being present at the November 16 meeting, again saying that he left for Manila from Davao on November 16, 2009 and returned through Cotabato City on November 20, 2009.

He added that the court should have treated his statement during the meeting in the same way that it treated Datu Akmad Ampatuan's agreement to the plan in one of the meetings.

The court acquitted Datu Akmad as it found no evidence that he followed through with their plan as he attended a medical mission on the day of the killings.

Anwar Sr. also cast doubt on the allegation that he aided and facilitated the escape Datu Unsay, pointing out that the only evidence presented by the prosecution to prove this is an alleged phone call by prosecution witness Lakmodin Saliao to him.

Back to the hospital

In a separate motion filed on Dec. 23, Zaldy Ampatuan — who was also convicted for 57 counts of murder for plotting the massacre — asked the court for him to be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison Infirmary “to receive the therapy, rehabilitation, and medication prescribed by his doctors, and so as not to unduly put his health in jeopardy.”

Zaldy had been confined at the Makati Medical Center from October 21 to December 18.

His lawyers said the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor suffered three strokes in two months. They said he has hypertension, diabetes and chronic atrial fibrillation and has to take 22 medicines daily.

The Quezon City RTC Branch 221 on December 17 ordered Zaldy to return to his detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, after finding him to be “clinically well as neurologically stable with no more complaint of headache and dizziness.”

CNN Philippines Justice Correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.