MANILA, Mar 10 (Mabuhay) – At least three media groups have criticized the Quezon City court order giving Andal Ampatuan Sr.’s son and massacre suspect Datu Sajid Islam temporary freedom.
In separate statements, the National Press Club of the Philippines, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines expressed disappointment on the court’s decision allowing Sajid to post bail.
“We are still trying to gather more details but if true that Judge (Jocelyn) Solis-Reyes again resorted to ‘legal technicalities’ to justify the granting of bail against Sajid Islam Ampatuan who admitted to being present while the details of the massacre is being discussed by his family, (that) is an indictment of our criminal justice system and a gross travesty of justice,” said NPC president Joel Sy Egco.
For its part, the NUJP said: “We fear for the course of the search for justice for the 58 victims, 32 of them media workers, of the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.”
“As we said before, the grant of bail to Sajid, who was acting governor at the time of the massacre and would certainly have been in on the murderouos plot, can only be attributed to the prosecution’s faulty presentation of its case. At best, because of incompetence, at worst as part of some nefarious deal,” said NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan.
For its part, the CEGP, made up of 750 student publications nationwide, appealed to the Quezon City court – which has been hearing the case for more than five years – to give justice to the victims’ families.
“The court’s decision to grant Sajid Ampatuan P11.6-million bail is an insult to the families of victims of the massacre and to press freedom in the country,” the group said.
The prosecution had argued that the “silence” of Sajid – despite being an officer-in-charge – during a supposed meeting to hatch the killings could be “interpreted to mean he assented to the commission of the crimes.”
But in upholding her bail grant on Sajid, QC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes in an order issued on Monday said the prosecution “failed to state any legal basis on its claim that silence, during the conduct of a meeting of a conspiracy, already means assent to the commission of the crime.”
Egco, however, said, “Surely, Sajid’s mere not saying a word during this ‘murder conference’ is already proof of his consenting for the massacre to be committed and not as an excuse to conclude ‘lack of strong evidence’ against him as reportedly used by the judge in allowing him to post bail.”
At the same time, Egco criticized Judge Solis-Reyes for allowing Sajid to post a surety bond to cover for the P11.6 million bail. “Judge Solis did not even rule that Sajid pay in cash but thru a surety bond where only the ‘premium’ is actually paid by any detainee.”
“But for a crime of this magnitude, no bail should have been allowed, period,” he added.
Egco said the development in the Ampatuan massacre trial would be another “blackeye” for the Aquino administration that has “promised” to give justice to the massacre victims.
“Part of the blame lies over the way the Aquino government has shown lack of concern and focus in following developments in this case and which has emboldened some quarters to make a mockery again of our own criminal justice system in favour of the accused,” he said.
For her part, Paraan said: “We demand that the DOJ get to the bottom of this and move quickly to repair the damage lest a miscarriage of justice in this case be added to the long litany of sins against press freedom and justice this administration has committed.” (MNS)