Thursday, January 5, 2012

Maguindanao massacre trial resumes with 5 not guilty pleas

The Maguindanao massacre trial resumed Thursday from a two-week  holiday break with five suspects pleading not guilty to 57 counts of murder.  

Those arraigned were Senior Police Officer 1 Oscar Donato, Police Officer 3 Abibudin Abdulgani, Police Officer 2 Hamad Nana, and Police Officers 1 Abdullah Baguadatu and Esmael Guialal.  

The arraignment was held in a makeshift courtroom, just below the suspects’ prison cells inside the Quezon City Jail Annex Building at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.  

Including prominent members of the Ampatuan clan, 196 suspects are facing multiple murder charges for the killing of 57 people, including  32 journalists, in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.   Also implicated in the killings were hundreds of members of the clan's private army and members of the local police.  

More than two years after the killings, only 96 or less than half of all suspects have been so far arrested with around 30 still to be arraigned.  

Of the eight prominent Ampatuans charged with the crime, only two have been so far arraigned —patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son and namesake Andal Jr.  

Senior Police Officer 4 Raymundo Oquendo, the brother of victim and lawyer Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon, testified during Thursday's hearing.

He told Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes that he learned of his sister's death in a text message.   Apart from her sister, Raymundo's father Catalino was also killed the massacre dubbed as the worst single, election-related violence in Philippine history.  

Raymundo told the court he was still able to read the series of text messages from his sister Cynthia, indicating that her life was in danger.  

Raymundo said one of the messages from his sister read: "Advise client Ampatuan tama na please. We might get killed. Please tell Tom."  

Tom refers to Tomas Falgue III, a legal counsel for the Ampatuans, Oquendo noted.  

The text messages were first sent by Cynthia to her law firm associate Arnold Oclarit, who in turn forwarded the message to Raymundo.  

Another text was in Visayan and read: "There were many dead. We're next. Tell Tom."  

The prosecution also presented in court the damaged mobile phone of Cynthia recovered from the crime scene in Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town.  

The phone was given to Raymundo at a funeral parlor in Maguindanao. — VS, GMA News

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