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3 men found guilty of murder in deadly Rizal Day bombings

January 23, 2009 11:57am
(Update) MANILA, Philippines – A Manila court on Friday sentenced three men to serve 20 to 40 years in prison for killing 22 people and wounding about a hundred others in the Rizal Day bombings in Metro Manila in December 2000.
RIZAL DAY BOMBING CHRONOLOGY

(Sources: al-Ghozi’s affidavits submitted to the DOJ, PNP and DOJ documents, news reports)

GMA News Research

December 1996 – Al-Ghozi’s superior, Faiz bin Abubakar Bafana, sent him to Mindanao so the Islamic terror group Jema’ah Islamiyah could participate in the “holy war" there. He arrived in General Santos City through Manado, Indonesia.

November 2000 – Al-Ghozi visited Hadji Onos alias Muklis, an MILF member, in Marawi City to discuss the purchase of explosives in Cebu. Muklis informed him of the MILF’s plan to bomb Metro Manila to avenge the Erap administration’s bombing of Camp Abubakar and sought financial help from him. Al-Ghozi consulted Faiz, who agreed to the plan. Faiz wired a total of P250,000 through al-Ghozi’s PNB account under the alias Edris Anwal Rodin.

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In a 74-page decision, Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 29 Presiding Judge Cielito Menaro Grulla declared Saifulla Yunos alias Mukhlis Yuno, Abdul Fatak Paute, and Mamasao Naga guilty of multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, and multiple attempted murder.

The three were sentenced to life imprisonment and were ordered to each pay P125,000 in damages to each family of those who were killed.

They were also ordered to pay P25,000 to each living victim.

The three were spared death as the imposition of capital punishment has been stopped by a law signed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2006.

But Regional Director Elfren Meneses, a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) official who was among those who helped investigate the bombings, said while the three convict were spared death with the repeal of the death penalty law, their reclusion perpetua sentence was “like life imprisonment."

“Conspiracy was established. Forty years imprisonment. Not subject to parole. That’s lifetime. There was treachery which was an aggravating circumstance," he said.


Promulgation

The promulgation started shortly after 9 a.m., with both parties agreeing that Grulla’s 74-page-long decision be read in full.

As expected, security was tight at the promulgation.

Before revealing the court decision, Judge Grulla ordered guards to take the handcuffs off the three men while they listened to their verdict.

The suspects had been reiterating that they were not in Metro Manila when the series of explosions happened on Dec. 30, 2000.

Grulla, however, gave more weight to the testimony of the prosecution’s witness, who positively identified the three men as the ones who carried the bombs inside the train station.

Jun Veneracion of GMA News reported that the three convicted murderers displayed no emotion on hearing their guilty verdicts, but they shouted "Allahu akbar," an Arabic phrase meaning “Allah is great!"
















After the promulgation, the three men were handcuffed again and escorted out of court. It was not yet clear in which detention cell the three convicts would be brought.

Investigators in the bombings blamed local terrorist groups in cahoots with elements of the Jemaah Islamiyah, the regional arm of the al-Qaeda terror network.

The judge said conspiracy exists. “It is evident that there was unity of purpose in bombing LRT Vehicle No. 1037 and unity in the execution of such unlawful objective on the part of Moklis, Paks/Naga and Amir/Paute at the time of the commission of the crime," she ruled.

On Dec. 30, 2000, the perpetrators of the explosions launched their first attack at Plaza Ferguson, a stone's throw away from the United States Embassy on Roxas Boulevard in Manila.

The second bomb attack took place inside a coach of the LRT Blumentritt Station in Manila, where more than 10 people were killed.

The third bomb exploded at a gasoline station in Makati's Central Business District, where a policeman was killed.

The fourth bomb was detonated near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City and the fifth bomb exploded on a bus cruising along EDSA-Cubao in Quezon City.

The round of deadly blasts ended with a total of 22 people being killed and scores of others wounded.

Authorities said the bombings were meant to embarrass the government before the international community.

The blasts were supposedly led by self-confessed Jemaah Islamiyah bomber Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi of Indonesia. Months after his arrest, he escaped from a maximum security inside Camp Crame, the National Police headquarters in Quezon City.

He was later shot and killed by government forces in North Cotabato in 2003.

Reports also said that Bafana Faiz is now detained in Singapore and Riduan was arrested in Thailand by United States authorities. They were tagged as the ones who sent support to the Jihad program of Moklis Yunos.


Determined witnesses

State prosecutor Peter Ong ,who led the prosecution team, described the court ruling as a victory against terrorism.

“We are sending a very strong signal to all the terrorists. For in fact I will call them all the cowards. Mga walang awang bata pinatay nila. We will be sending a strong signal especially to commander Alim Pangalian Solaiman, We have a warrant for your arrest. We will move mountains in Lanao del Sur just to arrest you alive. Kapag lumaban ka, patay ka," said Ong.

State prosecutor Peter Ong ,who led the prosecution team, said the witness, Ana Marie Velasquez, who survived the attack, was the one who saw Yunos inside the train. Her husband and children were injured during the explosion

“Another witness Cusain Ramos, alias Abu Ali, who was involved in purchasing bombs from LapuLapu City (in the central Philippines). He confessed to getting orders from Al Ghozi. Moklis was also there. The three of them killed Tony Reyes," Ong said in Filipino.

Ong said he was impressed with the courage shown by the two witnesses in all six years of trial.

“They didn’t leave me. There were several victims who came here to my office, hanggang simula lang, humihingi ng financial assistance. But these Ana Marie Velasquez and Cusain Ramos hindi ako iniwanan," he said.

Cusain Ramos earlier charged posted bail at Quezon City Branch 79, but despite his release order he opted to stay at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters. He was admitted later by the Witness Protection Program – Department of Justice as state witness in the Rizal Day bombing.

Director Leopoldo Bataoil, Metro Manila police chief, commended the court for the guilty verdict. “This is a triumph against terrorism. We will continue to wage war against terrors and lawlessness. This is a high profile case and this is an important case for the PNP," he said. - GMANews.TV
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