Appelate Court orders DOJ to answer Ampatuan's plea

July 25, 2010 10:32 pm 

MANILA, July 25 – The Court of Appeals (CA) has directed the Department or Justice (DOJ) to immediately answer the plea of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan to nullify a resolution of issued by Justice Secretary Alberto Agra that ordered his indictment in the infamous Maguindanao massacre case.

Agra's May 5 resolution ordered the filing of 57 counts of murder charges against Ampatuan before the Quezon City Regional Trial court (RTC), in connection with the massacre that left 57 people dead, including 30 journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009 in Maguindanao.

The CA Eleventh Division, in the decision penned by Associate Justice Danton Bueser, gave the DOJ 10 days within which to submit its comment on Ampatuan’s petition.

In his petition, Ampatuan also asked the CA to reinstate Agra’s April 16 resolution ordering his exclusion and those of former Maguindanao vice-governor Datu Akmad Ampatuan Sr. as co-accused in the 57 counts of murder charges due to lack of probable cause to implicate them to the brutal killings.

“Without necessarily giving due course to the petition for certiorari, public respondent [Agra] is hereby directed to file his comment within 10 days. Petitioner is hereby given five days from receipt of said comment within which to file reply,” the CA ordered.

The former ARMM governor also claimed that the DOJ committed grave abuse of discretion in accepting the affidavit of new witness, Abdul Talusan, which became Agra's basis in reversing his April 16 resolution.

He alleged that it was a violation his constitutionally guaranteed right to due process, considering that he was not given an opportunity to present counter-evidence to rebut the affidavit of Talusan.

Akmad filed a similar petition before the CA , seeking to declare null and void Agra’s May 5 resolution.

He claimed that the former DOJ chief committed grave abuse of discretion in reversing his April 16 ruling based on the affidavit of Talusan considering that it was not among the evidence used by the panel of prosecutors in their resolution indicting him and Zaldy for the Maguindanao massacre. (PNA)

RMA/PFN

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