In a nine-page resolution dated March 6 penned by Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang, the SC’s Third Division said Datu Karim Masdal’s acts constituted the complex crime of double murder, warranting the imposition of the maximum penalty for murder.
The blast which targeted Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu's vehicle convoy also killed Maguindanao provincial board member Datu Russman Sinsuat Sr. and civilian Raffy Pareñas.
The Court also affirmed the appellate court’s order for Masdal to pay PHP300,000 as civil, moral and exemplary damages for each of the victim.
The tribunal added that following the abolition of the death penalty in the country, it has reduced the penalty of death to reclusion perpetual with no eligibility for parole.
“In the case at bar, the circumstances surrounding the fateful day of August 15, 2011, when the explosion at Alunan Highway led to the death of Pareñas and BM Sinsuat, show an unbroken chain of facts which establish beyond reasonable doubt Masdal’s culpability,” the Court ruled.
Masdal claimed he was innocent of the charges considering that the prosecution failed to present evidence on how the bomb was detonated and that without this evidence, he should not be convicted of double murder.
Masdal says a certain Montasir merely handed him a cellphone and told him to send a text message once the Mangudadatu’s convoy arrives adding that he felt obliged to follow the instruction out of fear for his life.
“To begin with, although Masdal claims that Montasir threatened him into submission, the former failed to specify the extent of the threat given by the latter. He did not mention any serious bodily harm that would have befallen him. Worse, he did not even claim that Montasir will kill him, should he refuse to obey the latter's alleged orders,” the Court pointed out.
“This shows that Masdal's allegation of fear or duress is untenable. Clearly, under the circumstances, Masdal 's alleged fear, arising from the threat of Montasir, would not suffice to exempt him from incurring criminal liability,” it added.