Ampatuans: Let’s go to court

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Let’s go to trial.

The powerful Ampatuan family yesterday refused to file counter-affidavit to refute the charges hurled against them that they masterminded the cold-blooded killing of at least 57 people in Maguindanao several weeks ago.

Siegfried Fortun, lawyer of Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., told the panel of prosecutors handling the preliminary investigation that his client and six other members of the clan including former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr. prefer to slug it out in court instead of refuting the charges at the Justice Department level.

Fortun said they won’t get a fair shake at the DoJ since Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera has shown partiality against his clients when she commented that the “Ampatuans will rot in jail” for what they have done.

Fortun’s manifestation of a waiver to file counter-affidavits prompted the panel headed by Senior State Prosecutor Roseanne Balauag to declare that the multiple murder case against the Ampatuans is deemed submitted for resolution.

However, the preliminary investigation of the same case against the other respondents will still continue because Fortun’s waiver to file only covered the Ampatuans.

The other respondents have until December 28 to file their counter-affidavits.

Ampatuan Jr. was handcuffed and in chains when he arrived at the DJ yesterday for the preliminary investigation. A phalanx of security men and agents from the National Bureau of Investigation surrounded the principal suspect of the massacre, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest.

He was booed and jeered by some protesters carrying pictures of massacre victims. Some were able to get near him and slapped him on the back of the head.

Outside of the DJ, crime crusade groups waited for several hours for the mayor to appear. When the vehicle carrying him passed, they started shouting invectives against the embattled Maguindanao town mayor.