The Court of Appeals last week reversed the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court with regards to a police officer’s involvement in the Maguindanao massacre, which transpired in November of 2009.
SPO2 Badawi Bakal has been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt as an accessory to 57 counts of murder.
The court said that he knew of the crime after threatening and preventing a witness from disclosing what he saw on that day. The accused also confessed that he feared divulging his knowledge of the abduction of Esmael Mangudadatu would endanger him and his family.
“Being a police officer in the active service, SPO2 Bakal abused his public office when he concealed the identities of the accused; he failed to effect or cause their immediate arrest; and he contributed to the delay in the investigation,” the 34-page decision authored by Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr. read.
Bakal was thus sentenced to four years and two months in prison correccional as a minimum, to 10 years of prison mayor as a maximum, for each of the 57 counts of murder. He is also ordered to pay civil indemnity and damages to the families of 57 victims.
The CA said that QC RTC 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes “grossly mis-appreciated and overlooked” evidence present at Bakal’s acquittal two years prior.
“The respondent court’s blatant disregard of material evidence resulted in a violation of the people’s right to due process. It amounted to a mistrial,” they added. “The Omnibus Order, with respect to the acquittal of private respondent SPO2 Bakal, is but a void judgment. It cannot be considered to have attained finality.”
The Maguindanao massacre is considered the grimmest election-related violence in the history of the country and the worst attack on journalists anywhere in the world. Thirty-one media people were killed after following the Mangudadatu family’s convoy when patriarch Esmael went to file his candidacy for governor.
Ten years later, 56 defendants walked free, many of them policemen, with some even believed to be working for the Ampatuan family, as well as two clan heads accused of masterminding the crime to prevent a threat to their rule in the province.