Agra defers new resolution on massacre case
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Alberto Agra has deferred the release of his final decision on the fate of two prominent members of the Ampatuan clan in the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.
Agra said he opted to give families of the victims until today to file their supplemental motion for reconsideration as manifested earlier by their lawyer Nena Santos.
“While Atty. Nena Santos had previously filed a motion for reconsideration last week, the National Prosecution Service rule on appeals provides that they have 10 days from receipt of copy of the resolution within which to file (a motion). The records showed that the 10th
day falls tomorrow (April 30),” he said in a statement released yesterday.
He said that he wants to give the aggrieved parties the fullest extent of their right to appeal his resolution last April 16 that cleared detained Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Maguindanao Vice Gov. Akmad Ampatuan Sr. of involvement in the multiple murder case.
“The DOJ received on April 27 a Manifestation from Santos, the counsel on record of private complainants, that they will file a supplemental motion on Friday. We will wait for that,” Agra said.
Santos is the counsel for the families of 25 of 57 victims in the massacre.
Lawyer Harry Roque Jr., counsel of the relatives of 12 other victims, also asked that the resolution of Agra be nullified because their clients were not given a chance to oppose the petition for review of the two Ampatuans who were cleared by the DOJ chief from any involvement in the massacre.
The massacre resulted in the killing of 57 people, including the wife of Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu of Buluan, Maguindanao and two of his sisters, two female lawyers and 30 journalists who covered the supposed filing of certificate of candidacy of the vice mayor who will run for governor of Maguindanao and challenge a scion of the Ampatuan clan.
The Mangudadatus have blamed the Ampatuans for the incident, specifically pointing to Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of Datu Unsay, Maguindanao as the leader of more than 100 armed men who waylaid Mangudadatu’s supporters.
The Ampatuans denied any involvement in the massacre.
Agra vowed last Monday to review his resolution and release his decision within the week in compliance with an order from Malacañang, but with the recent development, he said his new ruling would be released maybe next week.
“I will consult with the prosecutors involved, and take their opinions and observations under advisement, and give their recommendations the utmost weight and consideration,” he stressed.
Agra said he has decided to act on the appeals himself rather than create a review panel because it is the sole prerogative of the DOJ secretary to resolve any motion for reconsideraton filed before the department.
“Because it is like any other case, where both the victim and the accused are accorded the same constitutional rights, I will not inhibit myself in resolving the MR. I will not create a panel. My faith in my own objectivity has not been shaken, for there is no reason for me to doubt myself. I have, and always will, act in accordance with my conscience, and due regard to my oath as a lawyer and a public servant,” Agra added.
Pending release of a new resolution, Agra begged off from public interviews and said he would devote his time to pending work in his office.
Flanked by over 250 officers and employees, Agra said he has no plans of quitting his job due to mounting calls for his resignation over his controversial resolution.
Instead of just waiting for the court to act on the case of multiple murder, abduction, robbery and damage to property that DOJ prosecutors had filed against members of the Ampatuan clan, Agra said he had to issue a new resolution in view of the pending motion for review that defense lawyers had filed before the DOJ.