The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - A high-ranking police official on Thursday pleaded not guilty to his alleged involvement in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
Supt. Abdulwahid Pedtucasan was arraigned before Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 on 57 counts of murder.
Wearing a rosary around his neck, yellow detainees' shirt, khaki pants and slippers, the police official faced the charges against him after the court ruled against an appeal on his indictment.
Records showed that Pedtucasan is the 76th suspect to be arraigned so far in the landmark case.
Of the 195 who were charged for the November 23, 2009 massacre, only 96 suspects have been arrested.
Pedtucasan had earlier challenged his indictment before the court.
His indictment in a 2010 court order was based on his admission that he deployed additional troops at the Maitumaig detachment in Datu Unsay town on orders of their group director, Supt. Bahnarin Kamaong.
Senior Insp. Abdulgapor Abad, commander of the 5th Company of the 15th Regional Mobile Group, also conducted a checkpoint on the fateful day, allegedly per Pedtucasan's directive. That checkpoint allowed perpetrators of the massacre in Ampatuan town to stop the convoy led by the wife of Esmael Mangudadatu, and subsequently kill them. In all, 58 people including more than 30 media workers died.
However, Pedtucasan argued that these grounds were not enough to charge him as these were part of his duties as a police officer, and should be treated with the presumption of regularity.
The court ruled against him, saying his actions lent support to the apprehension---and subsequent shooting---of the Maguindanao massacre victims.
The police official maintained his innocence at his arraignment on Thursday morning, as his lawyer Benedicto Malcontento insisted that what his client did was pure standard operating procedure, or SOP.