Court orders Zaldy Ampatuan’s return to jail from hospital as verdict for Maguindanao massacre nears

Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the principal accused in the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre case <I>Photo: ABS-CBN News</I>
Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the principal accused in the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre case Photo: ABS-CBN News

Days before it’s due to issue the long-awaited verdict in a gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre, a Quezon City court has ordered the return of one of the case’s principal defendants, Zaldy Ampatuan, to his detention cell at Camp Bagong Diwa after nearly two months of confinement in a private hospital.

Read: Supreme Court allows postponement of Ampatuan massacre verdict to December

Ampatuan was confined under hospital arrest at the Makati Medical Center after suffering a stroke on Oct. 22, but the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 said in an order signed on Dec. 16 that he is fit to undergo rehabilitation under detainment.

“The court finds that there is no longer any need for [Zaldy Ampatuan] to remain in the hospital as the procedure during rehabilitation session can be done to him as an outpatient,” Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes said.

“Unless his attending physicians will execute a certification under oath that his return to the detention facility will endanger his life, reason dictates that the relief being prayed for in the Motion filed by the prosecution must be granted.”

Reyes also ordered the warden of the Quezon City Jail-Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa to “immediately transport” Ampatuan to his detention facility.

The order comes after state prosecutors last month appealed to the court to return Ampatuan to his cell, fearing that he would escape, and stressing that he “would do any last ditch move toward his liberty, be it resorting to his act of taking flight.”

“It is apprehensive that his alleged hospital confinement under the cloak of being still undergoing continuous physical and occupational therapy may provide him all the opportunity for a convenient escape,” the prosecution said in its motion in November.

Read: Philippines marks massacre anniversary with calls for justice

Ampatuan is one of the principal suspects in the November 2009 massacre in which 58 people, 32 of them journalists, were killed in broad daylight during the filing of candidacy for the Maguindanao governor elections. Their bodies were dumped in roadside pits, and the attack has been called the worst case of election-related violence in the country.

Of the case’s original 197 suspects, 80 remain at large, including 15 members of the Ampatuan clan, Philippine Star reports.

The court is expected to give the verdict on Thursday, a decade after the gruesome massacre took place.

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