Is Zaldy Ampatuan's release connected to 'Villarroyo'?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-04-22
Something wonderful happened in our country last Monday.

Led by Chief State Prosecutor Claro Arellano, the Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecutors stepped out of their offices and delivered a strong denouncement of Justice Secretary Alberto Agra’s dropping of the murder charges against ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Mayor Akmad Ampatuan.

Claro Arellano and his fellow prosecutors deserve public praise and support for having the moral fortitude to denounce what is largely seen as an attempt to deprive the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre and their surviving loved ones the justice that they deserve.

What is significant in the action taken by Claro Arellano and his colleagues is that it is this type of moral courage to denounce wrongdoing in the highest public offices of the land that will be the key to ferreting out the rot of corruption and injustice in government and prosecuting the guilty persons who have betrayed public trust. Nobody knows more about the injustice and corruption in government offices than the agency insiders themselves.

Legal minds have since registered their arguments on why the dropping of murder charges against the two Ampatuans is wrong. The weightiest of these legal arguments are the following:

1. The case has been determined by a special DoJ panel and was elevated for trial already with the consent of the previous Justice Secretary. Once in the Trial Court, the DoJ had ceded jurisdiction over the case.
2. Agra’s main argument — the alibi of being in another place at the time of the Maguindanao Massacre — is considered to be the weakest argument in law and should not override the sworn testimony of a witness who placed Zaldy Ampatuan in the meeting that plotted the killings. Probable cause was clearly established.

In a live interview over ANC’s Top Story with Tony Velazquez and Pia Hontiveros last Monday, crusading lawyer Harry Roque revealed that he was once invited by Zaldy Ampatuan after their detention for the massacre. The invitation was for Roque to hear Ampatuan divulge Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s (GMA) relationship with their clan and the role they played for her in the controversial ARMM voting results in 2004 and 2007.

Roque claimed that an ABS-CBN reporter — who was not named — also knew Zaldy Ampatuan’s threat to expose GMA with regards the 2004 and 2007 election operations in ARMM. Roque believes that the release order for Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan was to prevent the ARMM governor from making the expose. The 2004 and 2007 ARMM elections defied statistical probability with the way the administration won there.

News of the Maguindanao Massacre reverberated here and abroad. It was too brazen and heinous a crime for the administration to whitewash but the relationship with the Ampatuan clan made GMA very vulnerable to an expose once the Ampatuans feel that she had abandoned them.

Should the Regional Trial Court agree to release the two Ampatuans, they can once again operate for the 2010 elections — other than to use their full resources to silence or intimidate the witnesses against them. There is no denying that this move of Agra sends a chill up and down the spines of the witnesses to the Maguindanao Massacre.

The timing of Agra’s dropping of the murder charges against the two Ampatuans, with about three weeks before the May 10, 2010 elections, cannot escape suspicion that the failing candidacies of GMA official and suspected secret presidential candidates — Gilbert Teodoro and Manny Villar, respectively — could be the other motivation.

“Abswelto kami kay Villar (We will be acquitted with Villar)” — Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre, was quoted by the front page of Pilipino STAR Ngayon last April 17. This stemmed from the ABS-CBN report where Andal Ampatuan Jr. confirmed his support for Manny Villar and his spokesman (and senatorial candidate) Gilbert Remulla on the day he was transferred to the Taguig detention facility. To reinforce his avowal of support, Andal Jr. even proudly displayed the Villar orange baller on his right wrist.

Villar had admitted on an ANC interview with Karen Davila that the young Andal Ampatuan’s endorsement hurts him more than it helps him. Lo and behold, suddenly, last Tuesday, Andal Ampatuan Jr. reversed gear and claimed that they were endorsing Noynoy Aquino. It was an obvious attempt to help Villar. Aquino simply dismissed the Ampatuan endorsement by saying: “No, thank you.”

Villar has been desperately trying to disprove that he is GMA’s secret candidate, even suggesting that the defections of administration supporters to Noynoy Aquino, his leading rival, and the involvement of Aquino relatives in the administration are ‘proofs’ that it is an Aquino-Arroyo alliance and not ‘Villarroyo’ as many believe. The admission of support for Villar by Andal Ampatuan Jr. kills any notions of an Aquino-Arroyo alliance.

Noynoy Aquino doesn’t need the ARMM “vote delivery system” to win the May 10 presidential election. Aquino is comfortably ahead of Manny Villar, his closest rival. Manny Villar had lost a lot of ground in the recent surveys and will need all the help he can get from GMA and her dearest friends.

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