By his own reckoning, Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra is the “most hated man in the country” for making “the most unpopular decision of the decade.”
Agra had earlier ordered the dismissal of the murder charges against Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan, saying they had presented credible alibis to show that they were not present when the Maguindanao Massacre took place on Nov. 23, 2009.
Several members of the Ampatuan clan, including clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. have been charged with murdering 57 people, including 32 media workers and relatives of political rival Ismael Mangudadatu. Their bodies and their vehicles were dumped in unmarked graves in a remote hillside in Ampatuan town.
But during Monday morning’s flag-raising ceremony at the Department of Justice, Agra came out swinging. He said he has no intention of resigning; neither does he have any intention of inhibiting himself from the case. Everything he did, Agra insisted, was in accordance with legal procedure.
In fact, Agra stressed that he would treat the Maguindanao Massacre “just the same as any other case pending before this department,” adding that the case was only controversial because it was “high profile.”
excerpts from Agra’s speech before DOJ employees
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Director Rowena Paraan agreed that the Ampatuans should be given due process. However Paraan stressed that it was not the Justice Secretary who should decide their guilt.
“Let the courts decide their guilt, not the Justice Secretary who follows the command of Malacanang, not the former election lawyer of the Arroyos whose closeness to the Ampatuans is almost legendary,” Paraan said.