Sunday, December 22, 2019

Ampatuans must pay victims’ kin P155.6 million

Heirs or next of kin of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre are entitled to damages ranging from P350,000 to P23.5 million as part of the guilty verdict on the main perpetrators of the crime, particularly members of the Ampatuan clan.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Joce­lyn Solis-Reyes, in her 761-page decision promulgated Thursday, sentenced the principal convicts to life in prison without parole and ordered them to pay a total of over P155.6 million in damages to the heirs of 57 victims.

The convicts – including five prominent members of the Ampatuan clan – were directed to jointly pay the families of each of the victims P100,000 in civil indemnity, P100,000 in moral damages and P100,000 in exemplary damages.
Solis-Reyes also granted the plea for actual damages for the death of 12 of the 57 victims, including lawyer Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon (P872,595) and journalists Alejandro Reblando (P146,557.34), Daniel Tiamzon (P101,297.40), Fernando Razon (P62,769.90), Henry Araneta (P80,000), Jephone Cadagdagon (P131,179) and Santos Gatchalian (P55,650).

Also receiving payment for actual damages are the heirs of couple Eduardo and Cecille Lechonsito (P110,000 for each victim), Mercy Palabrica (P54,000), Wilhelm Palabrica (P67,996.20) and Anthony Ridao (P223,433.40).
The five were among those killed after they were mistaken to be part of the convoy led by the wife and relatives of then Buluan town vice mayor and now Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu.

Relatives of those not getting actual damages would each receive P50,000 in temperate damages, which are awarded when the amount corresponding to the loss is not determined with certainty.

Aside from the amount, heirs of 39 victims – mostly journalists – were also entitled to payment due to loss of earning capacity.

The victims and the corresponding amounts of claims are Bai Eden Gaguil (Mangudadatu sister), P2,799,996; Bai Farinah Hassan (sister), P1,341,086.80; Suraida Gaguil Bernan (Mangudadatu relative), P1,273,145.48;
Raida Sapalon Pamensang (relative), P1,008,540; Lailani Balayman (Mangudadatu supporter), P1,980,001.80; Eugene Pamansag (supporter), P3,900,000; Abdillah Ayada (supporter), P5,279,994; Meriam Calimbol Pandal (supporter), P1,969,245.57; Concepcion Jayme Brizuela (lawyer), P10,357,520; Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon (lawyer), P9,025,714.80; Norton Edza (van driver), P5,639,994; Razul Daud Bulilo (van driver), P3,703,752; Alejandro Reblando (Manila Bulletin), P1,131,829.82; Arturo Beata (Periódico Ini), P1,350,000; Bienvenido Legarte Jr. (Prontiera News), P2,100,000; Daniel Tiamson (UNTV), P926,988.32; Ernesto Maravilla (Bombo Radyo), P12,605,567.69; Fernando Razon (Periodico Ini), P1,800,000; Gina dela Cruz (Saksi News),  P780,000; Hannibal Cachuela (Punto News), P3,479,994; Jephone Cadagdagon (Saksi News), P23,131,785.44; Jhoy Duhay (Gold Star Daily), P3,199,995; Joel Parcon (Prontiera News), P4,030,006.50; Jolito Evardo (UNTV), P1,853,971.60; Lea Dalmacio (Socsargen News), P840,000; Lindo Lupogan (Mindanao Daily Gazette), P2,799,996; Marites Cablitas (News Focus and dxDX), P2,100,000; McDelbert Arriola (UNTV), P1,986,400; Napoleon Salaysay (Mindanao Gazette), P2,250,004.50; Noel Decina (Periodico Ini), P880,000.80; Rey Merisco (Periodico Ini), P3,220,003.50; Rosell Morales (News Focus), P3,759,996; Santos Gatchalian (dxGO), P560,001; Victor Nuñez (UNTV), P1,868,531.67; as well as the following all mistaken as part of convoy: Eduardo Lechonsito, P2,070,144; Cecille Lechonsito, P2,107,055.28; Daryll delos Reyes, P1,256,113.21; Wilhelm Palabrica, P821,305.21 and Anthony Ridao, P3,025,708.02.
Evidence for claims

The amounts set by the court were based on the testimonies and evidence presented by the heirs of the victims during the hearings on the civil aspect of the mass murder trial.

Solis-Reyes, in denying some of the claims for actual damages and loss of earning capacity, said the prosecution was not able to provide documents that would support the requested amounts.
The judge directed the principal convicts to pay the amount with interest of six percent per annum starting from the rendition of judgment until the award is fully paid.

Among those convicted of 57 counts of murder were siblings Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan and their father the late Anwar Ampatuan Sr.

Also convicted were Anwar Sr.’s sons Anwar Jr. and Anwar Sajid, as well as 23 other police officers and alleged members of the clan’s private army who took part in the massacre.

The suspects were sentenced to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years in prison, less the time already spent in jail during the course of the decade-long trial.
In her decision, Solis-Reyes also denied the plea for civil damages of the relatives of photojournalist Reynaldo Momay, believed to be the 58th victim of the massacre.

She denied the claim on the basis of the dismissal of the 58th murder charge due to reasonable doubt, noting that the prosecution failed to prove that Momay was indeed a victim of the massacre.

“Based on the complaint-affidavit of the victim’s daughter, Ma. Reynafe Momay-Castillo, only a partial upper denture was found at the site of the massacre, which allegedly belonged to the victim,” read the ruling.
“From the foregoing and based on the discussion on the criminal aspect, the court is convinced that the prosecution was not able to sufficiently establish the death of victim Reynaldo Momay. Hence, the court cannot grant any damages to his heirs,” it added.

Lawyer Harry Roque, who represented the heirs of Momay, said they would appeal the ruling on the civil aspect of the case.

Momay-Castillo, who is in the United States, said she would rather appeal the dismissal of the criminal aspect than pursue the award for damages.
“I don’t care about the money, I can live without the compensation,” she told The STAR in Filipino. “I need justice.”

Cases archived

Meanwhile, Solis-Reyes has also ordered consigning to archive the multiple murder cases filed against 80 suspects who remain at large.

She issued the order after noting that arrest warrants have already been issued against those still on the loose. The trial will be reopened once a suspect is arrested.
Based on records, 15 suspects surnamed Ampatuan remain at large, including Datu Kanor Ampatuan, brother of deceased clan patriarch former Maguindanao governor Andal Sr.

Also wanted are Kanor’s son Datu Mama and Andal Sr.’s grandsons Bahnarin and Saudi Jr.

Other suspects surnamed Ampatuan who have yet to be arrested include Harris, Moning and Norodin, all datus; Tony Kenis and Kagi Amar.

Each of the nine has P300,000 bounty on his head, according to the wanted poster previously released by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit of the Philippine National Police.
The remaining six – Datu Dainga, Alnor, Rodel, Kertz, Intan and Mohamad – each have a P250,000 reward for any information that would lead to their arrest.

The last time a suspect was arrested was in September 2016, when Akad Macaton alias Mohamad Salazar Piang was nabbed in an operation in Sultan Kudarat. He was among those acquitted by Solis-Reyes.

Following the ruling, relatives of the victims have called for the arrest of the rest of the suspects.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, which earlier dubbed the massacre as the single deadliest incident for journalists in world history, said justice has not just been slow but also partial, as 80 suspects remain scot-free.
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia previously urged law enforcement agencies to ensure the arrest of the suspects at large.

In a statement after the verdict, De Guia said the resolution of the case echoes their call to ensure that justice prevails by making every perpetrator accountable for crimes committed against human rights and dignity.

“While being a landmark decision, we steadily urge the government to ensure that every case of assault on the rights of Filipinos be met with the full force of the law toward addressing marks of impunity that continues to prevail,” she said.
“May this verdict revive our faith in the justice system, as well as in the principles of due process and rule of law – further recognizing that value of truth as our best defense against the many forms of abuses that threaten human dignity,” added De Guia.

Partial ruling

During Thursday’s promulgation, Solis-Reyes said the decision will only be partial as not all of the 197 individuals included in the original charge sheet have been arrested.

Based on records, only 117 suspects have been arrested since the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre.
The eight who have already died while in detention, including clan patriarch Andal Sr. who succumbed to liver cancer in 2015, were not covered by the verdict as the cases against them have already been dismissed.

Others who died in detention were Hernanie Decipulo in 2012; Maot Dumla in 2015; Moktar Daud in 2016; Edgardo Ong in 2017 and Nasser Talib, Macton Bilungan and Bensedick Alfonso last year.

The court dismissed the criminal cases against those who died in line with a provision in the Revised Penal Code that extinguishes the criminal liability of suspects if they die before final judgment.
Meanwhile, charges against five suspects have been dismissed due to lack of probable cause or insufficiency of evidence. They were Johann Draper, Abas Anongan, Tumi Timba Abas, Kominie Inggo and Dexson Saptula.

Three suspects were allowed to become state witnesses: former Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao vice mayor Sukarno Badal and police officers Esmael Canapia and Rex Ariel Diongon.