‘Not enough’ evidence vs. Ampatuan Jr. for guilty verdict in Maguindanao massacre case – lawyer

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 18)— A lawyer who previously represented a member of the Ampatuan clan said he finds insufficient evidence for the court to hand down a guilty verdict to his former client linked to the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case.

Atty. Raymond Fortun, who had worked for main suspect Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. from 2016 to July 2019, said some acquittals may take place when the court comes out with the much-awaited ruling on Thursday.

“Not enough for a guilty verdict. Sa akin kasi (for me), it's always a matter of reasonable doubt eh. If you're not able to connect the bullet to the gun to the gunman, in a murder case, you're not going to win,” Fortun told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Wednesday.

“I can see some acquittals (in the 101 on trial)… Hindi ko nakikita lahat na merong evidence of guilt,” he added.

[Translation: I can see some acquittals. I don’t see everyone having evidence of guilt.]

Unsay is among the 197 accused in the gruesome 2009 mass murder of 58 victims— including 32 media workers. He and his family’s private armed group allegedly shot and decapitated the bodies of victims, including members of the rival Mangudadatu family and civilians who happened to be passing by.

READ: How the Ampatuans allegedly killed 58 people

Unsay and his family members have denied involvement in the multiple murder case. According to Fortun, Unsay claimed he was presiding over a council meeting at the municipal hall at the time of the incident.

Speaking the truth?

Fortun questioned why the bullets and guns recovered from the scene failed to trace back to the accused. He also claimed no forensic ballistic examination took place during the almost ten-year trial.

“There were no ballistic tests, no records that the bullets that were found on the bodies of the victims came from a particular hand gun that was utilized by Andal Jr,” said Fortun, who earlier withdrew as the defendants’ counsel, citing “personal reasons.”

But the statement was refuted by Sukarno Badal, former Sultan sa Barongis vice mayor and a prosecution star witness in the case, who said that he saw the incident first hand.

"Nandoon ako nung nangyari. Si Atty. Fortun abogado lang 'yan, hindi niya nakita kung ano ang nangyari," Badal told CNN Philippines' Balitaan.

[Translation: I was there when it happened. Atty. Fortun is just a lawyer, he did not see what really happened.]

But Fortun also raised doubts on some accounts of the eye witnesses presented by the prosecution.

“You take a look at the testimonies of the witnesses; all of them were standing around, watching the shooting, as if they were watching a basketball game. Nobody ducked,” he added.

The lawyer, however, said he will respect whatever the decision Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes hands down during the promulgation for the case verdict.

“I will leave it up to the judge. I know that she's very fair, and she will decide this case on the merits,” Fortun said.

Maguindanao Rep. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu earlier expressed optimism that the court will impose a guilty verdict to the major suspects of the decade-long case, including Unsay.

The congressman has been tagged as the “real target” of the brutal attacks for challenging the long-reigning Ampatuan family for Maguindanao’s gubernatorial post.

Of the 197 accused, 101 people remain on trial, while 80 others are still at large. The incident has been tagged as the single deadliest attack on journalists in history, as well as the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines.

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