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Ampatuans appeal guilty verdict in 2009 massacre

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Murder convict Anwar Ampatuan Sr. and his two sons appealed the guilty verdict against them by a Quezon City court in connection with the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province a decade ago.

Anwar Sr., brother of convicts Andal Jr. and Zaldy, argued in his motion for reconsideration that mere knowledge and agreement in the massacre was not enough to establish a conspiracy. He also claimed he was not at the crime scene.

The trial court earlier convicted him, his two sons and his brothers Andal Jr. and Zaldy — former Maguindanao mayor and ex-governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, respectively — and 23 others for the 2009 massacre.

More than a dozen more people were convicted as accessories to the crime. Their other brother, Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, was acquitted along with more than 50 others.

In a separate motion, his sons Datu Anwar “Ipi” Ampatuan, Jr., Datu Anwar Sajid “Ulo” Ampatuan, said the court had relied only on the testimony of a witness who claimed to have seen them with family members during a clan meeting. The testimony was later retracted, they said.

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The massacre took place when family members and the media were accompanying Esmael G. Mangudadatu to the Commission on Elections to file his certificate of candidacy on Nov. 23, 2009. Mr. Mangudadatu was then running for governor of the Mindanao autonomous region to end the 20-year rule of the Ampatuan family..

More than 50 people were murdered, including 32 journalists. New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists called the attack the “worst single incident of journalist killing.”

Judge Judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes said the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the murders had been planned. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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