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Maguindanao Massacre

Palace reiterates no chance for Zaldy to turn state’s witness

September 9, 2011 4:36pm
Suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan has no chance of turning state’s witness in the Maguindanao massacre where is one the principal suspects, Malacañang said Friday, reiterating its position on the matter.

“Kung mag-a-apply po ‘yan for the Ampatuan massacre, wala pong pagkakataon. There is no chance. Sinabi na rin po iyan dati ni (Justice) Secretary Leila de Lima," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said at a press briefing.

In July, Zaldy expressed willingness to testify against his father, Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his brother, Andal Jr.

Zaldy, his father, two brothers and 193 others were charged for the murder of 57 people, including 32 journalists in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town on Nov. 23, 2009.

Most of the victims were part of a convoy and on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who was then challenging the Ampatuans for the Maguindanao gubernatorial seat.

Around 90 of the accused have been arrested and more than 100 remain at large.

If Ampatuan will apply for the Witness Protection Program on other cases he will have to undergo the usual procedure, said Valte.

“Kung totoo nga pong magsusumite siya ng application for other matters, then the Department of Justice has to do the assessment and the evaluation of the application," she said.

University of the Philippines (UP) law professor Theodore Te earlier said Zaldy must hurdlethe court's rigid requirements for those wanting to become state witness in this case.

He said the move to turn a suspect into a state witness is generally "done [in] coordination with the public prosecutor who has control over the case."

DOJ reluctant to take in Zaldy

In this case, Zaldy's camp should coordinate with Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Regional Prosecutor Peter Medalle, who heads the team of public prosecutors in the massacre case.

However, Medalle's boss, Justice Sec. Leila de Lima, said her department is reluctant to take Zaldy in as state’s witness.

However, if the DOJ approves Zaldy as a state witness, the department will file with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, the special court handling the massacre case, the motion to remove Zaldy from the list of the accused.

This is called the motion to discharge the accused as a state witness, Te explained.

Under Section 17, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, the accused must satisfy the court with the following requirements:
  1. There is absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused whose discharge is requested

  2. There is no other direct evidence available for the proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused

  3. The testimony of said accused can be substantially corroborated in its material points

  4. Said accused does not appear to be the most guilty and

  5. Said accused has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.
The prospective witness should also execute an affidavit detailing his knowledge of the crime. "That becomes the basis for admission to [the DOJ's] Witness Protection Program assuming he is discharged as a state witness," Te added.

Evidence presented in support of discharging the accused shall be part of the trial, according to The Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure

However, "If the court denies the motion for discharge of the accused as state witness, his sworn statement shall be inadmissible in evidence," according to Section 17, Rule 119. — VS, GMA News
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