3 accused in Maguindanao massacre cannot become state witnesses–CA

The Court of Appeals (CA) stood firm on its decision not to allow three of the 197 accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre to become state witnesses.

In a six-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Ramon Cruz, the CA denied the partial motion for reconsideration filed by government prosecutors seeking a reversal of its May 27, 2015, decision.

“The arguments raised by petitioner in its motion have already been judiciously considered before we rendered our judgment, as these were among the issues presented in their petition. The motion has not raised any new substantial legitimate ground or reason which would warrant a modification, much less, a reversal of our decision,” the CA said.

In its May 27, 2015, decision, the CA upheld the order issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, who is presiding over the Maguindanao massacre trial, denying the motion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop Police Insp. Rex Ariel Diongon, PO1 Rainier Ebus and Mohammad Sangki as accused in the case to become state witnesses.

The CA said the decision whether to admit an accused as state witness relies solely on the judge handling the case.

It pointed out that while the prosecution has control over thewitnesses it would present and the application for the discharge of the said three accused, the trial court already acquired jurisdiction over them upon their arraignment.

Furthermore, the CA reiterated that the discharge of the accused to become state witnesses is not necessary.

The CA agreed with Judge Reyes that their testimonies are substantially the same with other witnesses, namely,  Raul Sangki, Norodin Zailon Mauyag, Akmad Abubakar Esmael and Lakmodin Saliao.

Likewise, the CA also gave credence to the findings of the lower court that there are other prosecution witnesses who can testify on the commission of the crimes and the participation of the other accused mentioned by the three supposed witnesses.

“It must be emphasized that the RTC may still reconsider the discharge of accused Mohammad Sangki, PO1 Ranier Ebus and P/Insp. Rex Ariel Diongon once all the prosecution’s witnesses have been presented and there is absolute necessity for the testimonies of the aforementionedaccused,” the CA said.

The CA earlier explained that the Department of Justice  should have excluded the three from its amended list of respondents if it really intended to discharge them as witnesses, since the DOJ has the authority to do so under Republic Act 6981.

The CA noted that under Section 12 of Republic Act 6981, the DOJ has the power to exclude a witness outright from the information and to admit him or her into the Witness Protection Program.

Concurring with the CA ruling were Associate Justices Franchito Diamante and Amy Lazaro-Javier.

The massacre took place on November 23, 2009,  in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, where 58 people, including 32 journalists, were killed.

The journalists were accompanying the family and supporters of then-Buluan Vice  Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. to the provincial capitol to file the latter’s certificate of candidacy when their convoy was waylaid by more than 100 armed men and brought to Barangay Saniag in Ampatuan town where they were massacred.

Several members of the powerful Ampatuan clan have been accused of masterminding the gruesome killing.

After eight years, the case is still being prosecuted before the QC RTC where 197 individuals, including members of the Ampatuan clan, are being tried for 58 counts of murder.

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A UST journalism graduate, has been working as a reporter for more than 20 years.

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