Press Release
April 19, 2010

Villar to reopen murder case vs cleared Ampatuans

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar yesterday said that if elected president, he will reopen the murder cases against Zaldy Ampatuan, the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and Mayor Akmad Ampatuan Sr. in connection with the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao last year.

"I am enraged by the decision of the Department of Justice to clear these two members of the Ampatuan clan, which in my mind had been done with unconvincing haste and without credible basis," Villar said in a statement.

DOJ Sec. Alberto Agra has recently ordered state prosecutors to drop the murder indictments against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan, who are among the 197 people facing charges of murder for the November 2009 bloodbath.

The two are among the 23 members of the Ampatuan clan who have been charged with murder, including the patriarch, Andal Sr., and his sons Andal Jr. and Sajid, who is acting governor of Maguindanao.

"The DOJ should have just allowed the courts to clear the two Ampatuans if there was legal basis to do so, instead of deciding on its own and on its level. It gives us the impression that the fight for justice in this case has been lost even before it has begun," Villar said.

The former Senate President said the families of the victims of the massacre deserve more from the DOJ, which already cleared suspects just five months after the occurrence of the crime.

"This case is not an ordinary one. The gruesome massacre of 57 people - 32 of whom are journalists - is a crime that has angered not only our nation, but the international community as well," Villar said.

"We expected the DOJ to handle this case with utmost sensitivity and uncompromising resolve. However, its recent decision tells us that it is either being injudicious in its disposition of the case or it is playing its part in frustrating the administration of justice for the families of the victims."

He said reopening the case against the two Ampatuans would put the recent DOJ decision under review and see if Agra acted beyond the bounds of his duties and responsibilities.

"Again, I will seek the reopening of the murder case against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan if I am elected president. We should ensure that justice is served convincingly and that the DOJ, as government prosecutor in this case, exhaust all means to achieve that end," Villar explained.

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