MANILA: Members of a powerful and influential clan on Wednesday pleaded “not guilty” before a Metro Manila regional court to the 58th murder complaint filed against them which arose from the Mindanao massacre in November 2099.
GMA News reported that the clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan, the former governor of Maguindanao province, and his son Zaldy, the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), entered their plea during their arraignment before a makeshift court in a government facility in Metro Manila where they have been detained.
Also pleading not guilty were at least 78 of their co-accused, reportedly members of the Ampatuans’ “private army,” for the murder of photo-journalist Reynaldo Momay who worked for a Mindanao weekly.
Harry Roque, the lawyer of Momay, told GMA News a team of prosecutors from the Department of Justice reported they found “probable cause” to file the 58th murder case in court against the Ampatuans and more than 200 others.
Roque said this resulted from the request of Momay’s daughter that a separate murder case be filed in court because it was established that her father was among the 33 Mindanao journalists killed in the bloodbath on Nov.23, 2009, considered the worst election-related violence in Philippine history.
Aside from the journalists, also killed were the wife and two sisters of the scion of a rival clan Esmael Mangudadatu who won reelection as the Maguindanao governor in the May 13 midterm polls.