Court junks rebellion case vs Ampatuans, ASEAN has no power to help massacre kin
After finding no probable cause to indict the Ampatuans for rebellion, a Quezon City court ordered the release of several Ampatuan clan members including the family patriarch, former Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., and suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, reports GMANews.tv.
However, the Ampatuans are to remain in detention because of multiple murder charges against them in connection to the Maguindanao massacre, for which they have a pending trial.
The Ampatuans were charged with rebellion for allegedly "[commanding] their followers to rise publicly and take arms against the Republic for the purpose of removing allegiance to the government," government prosecutors claimed, according to Inquirer.net. It was alleged that the uprising was meant to foil their arrest for the Maguindanao massacre.
Inquirer.net reports that the prosecution based its rebellion charge on four alleged scenarios: "there were no prosecutors on hand to conduct proceedings regarding the November 23 massacre; there were massive formations of armed civilians to resist government troops; the local government units (LGUs) were not functioning because the employees went on mass leave; and the courts were not functioning."
Judge Vivencio Baclig of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 77, who penned the 18-page order releasing the Ampatuans, said no recorded evidence supports the four scenarios.
Baclig said the submitted photos "hardly portray a menacing and violent armed mob poised to undermine governmental authority… In fact, none of the exhibits will show that anyone of the protesters is armed." He also cited statements on the placards on the photos like "We love you Madame President" and "We want due process."
Meanwhile, in Jakarta, Indonesia, more bad news met the families of the massacred journalists at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) headquarters. The AICHR told them the human rights body could not receive individual complaints such as the petition filed by the families seeking help in bringing the suspects of the massacre to justice and ensuring that compensation is paid to the families left behind, reports ABS-CBN News.
"[Investigation of] individual complaints is not part of the power of AICHR. Not yet," AICHR Indonesia Commissioner Rafendi Djamin told the widow of journalist Joel Parcon, Naomi Parcon, who staged a protest rally in front of the ASEAN headquarters with other rights groups.
Rafendi said, "With all due respect to your families, of course, if it were up to me, I will take it up immediately. But AICHR is composed of 10 countries. This will have to be discussed, especially how we are going to deal with the complaints. I can only say that I will do my best to really strengthen the position of AICHR--our power and mandate. It will take a bit long. I'm really sorry about that."
Rafendi added that a Philippine government official verbally described the Maguindanao massacre to the AICHR as a "domestic issue." Rafendi told reporters, "Human rights is a universal issue."
Lawyer Harry Roque said they would send a formal reply to the AICHR regarding the statement of the Philippine government official.
Forum Asia Executive Dir. Yap Swee Seng said, "If [AICHR] continues to justify not taking up cases on the principle of non-interference, I think this commission will be ineffective and totally non-relevant to the ASEAN peoples who are suffering day to day."