Ampatuans given chance to oppose state witnesses
By Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A QUEZON CITY COURT has given the lawyers of the Ampatuan clan 15 days to respond to the prosecution’s motion to have four of their co-accused discharged and turned into state witnesses.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of QC Regional Trial Court Branch 221, in a two-page order Friday, told the defense lawyers to file their comment to the Department of Justice (DOJ) motion.
The DOJ has sought to have Mohammad Sangki, Insp. Rex Diongon, Insp. Michael Macaraig and PO1 Rainer Ebus turn state’s evidence against the Ampatuans in the killing of 57 people in Maguindanao in November 2009.
The defense lawyers asked the court for more time to study the DOJ motion before they file their answer.
“In view of the manifestation made by the accused’s counsel, accused is given 15 days from today within which to file their comment on the motion, after which the incident should be deemed submitted for resolution,” Reyes said.
The primary suspect in the Maguindanao massacre, Andal Ampatuan Jr., members of his family and over 100 others face trial for the murder of the 57 people who included women members of the Mangudadatu family, the Ampatuans’ political rivals, several lawyers and 31 journalists.
The DOJ earlier asked the court to allow Diongon and Ebus as well as PO1 Pia Kamidon, Takpan Dilon and Esmael Canapia to remain at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame in Quezon City instead of being transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where the Ampatuans and some of the other accused are being held.
The state prosecutors led by Assistant Chief Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon cited security concerns for keeping the potential state witnesses at Crame.
Vulnerable to harm
Holding the prospective witnesses with the other accused at Camp Bagong Diwa would leave them “vulnerable to physical harm, serious threats, psychological pressure and undue influence,” the prosecution said.
Suspect Macaraig also asked the court to allow him to remain in the custody of the DOJ’s Intelligence and Security Operations Group.
In a three-page manifestation, Macaraig said he voluntarily surrendered on April 21 and has been arraigned in court.
Macaraig, however, pointed out that the court did not say where he should be detained.
“As a sign of honesty and good faith, the matter was brought to the attention of the DOJ prosecutors who temporarily committed herein accused to the custody of ISOG-DOJ until such time that this honorable court is able to issue a commitment order,” he said.
The police officer said he would prefer to remain at the DOJ to ensure his security, as he was one of those being eyed as a state witness.