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Appellate court creates special division to resolve massacre suspect's plea

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net

Zaldy Ampatuan
Zaldy Ampatuan (AP)
MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals on Friday created a special division composed of five justices to resolve the petition of former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan on the murder charges filed against him in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.

This developed after the CA justices earlier tasked to resolve the matter failed to reach a unanimous vote on whether or not to grant Ampatuan's petition.

The Department of Justice last year initially cleared the former governor of any involvement in the massacre, but reversed this a few days later and issued a new resolution reinstating the 57 counts of murder that have been filed against Zaldy Ampatuan.

In his petition filed last year with the appeals court, Ampatuan maintained that the Department of Justice violated its own rules when it reinstated the murder charges against him. He wants the first DOJ resolution on the matter be reinstated instead.

The 11th Division tasked to resolve the matter--composed of Justices Noel Tijam, Danton Bueser and Marilyn Gonzales-Sison--however failed to muster a unanimous vote yesterday.

In a raffle conducted by the Appeals Court raffle division, Justices Mario Guarina III and Jose Reyes Jr. were drawn to complete the special division of five. They will now deliberate anew on the petition and resolve it once and for all.

Relatives of two of the victims in the Maguindanao massacre under the group Justice Now had earlier sought the inhibition of Bueser and Sison from the case.

They questioned why the two justices opted not to inhibit themselves from deliberating and ruling on Zaldy Ampatuan's petition when they inhibited themselves earlier from the petition of Andal Ampatuan Sr, another accused in the massacre case.

They also urged the appeals court to expedite the resolution of the case.

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