Translator delays Maguindanao massacre hearing anew-A A +A
Thursday, August 4, 2011
THE hearing of the Maguindanao massacre case has been suspended for the second straight day after the interpreter -- a lawyer connected with the Office of Muslim Affairs -- failed to show up.
Lawyer Rolando Abo was unable to inform the court regarding his absence, said Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.
As a result, the hearing -- which was supposed to arraign five more suspects who only understood the Maguindanaoan dialect -- was rescheduled once again.
On Wednesday, the court was prompted to reschedule the hearing after Abo called in sick, adding that on that day, he was disallowed to use his car under a number-coding scheme.
Abo, the official court interpreter for witnesses Norodin Mauyag, Akmad Abubakar Esmael, and former militiaman Esmael Enog Amil, is also the interpreter for suspects during their arraignment, including for former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., who has pleaded not guilty to the multiple murder charges.
Besides the delay in arraignment, the prosecution was also unable to present its witnesses for cross-examination, including Amil, who testified that he brought 36 gunmen in two batches to the area near the site where the gruesome killings took place.
Fifty-seven people, including 32 journalists, were killed in the massacre, though the body of the 58th victim, Reynaldo Momay, has yet to be recovered by the authorities.
To prevent further delays in the hearings, the prosecution panel said it would recommend three more interpreters to the court.
Solis-Reyes also told the prosecution and the defense panel that the court will coordinate with the OMA to help them address the issue.
Meanwhile, the prosecution will appeal an earlier court decision that rejected their request to make four of the accused -- Mohamad Sangki, Police Inspectors Michael Macaraeg and Rex Ariel Diongon and PO1 Rainier Ebus -- as state witnesses.
In her ruling, Solis-Reyes cited lack of merit in the prosecution's move to include them as state witnesses, despite what she said is the fact they do not appear to be the most guilty of the suspects.
"The court ruled that the existence of the foregoing conditions will not suffice to discharge the said accused as state witnesses," Solis-Reyes said in her omnibus order. "The discharge of an accused should be availed of only when there is absolute necessity for the testimony of said accused whose discharge is requested as when he alone has knowledge of the crime and not when his testimony would simply corroborate or otherwise strengthen the evidence in the hands of the prosecution."
The Ampatuans have repeatedly opposed the inclusion of the four as prosecution witnesses.
Diongon who graduated from the Philippine National Police Academy in 2007 is the group director of the 1508th Maguindanao Police Provincial Mobile Group when the massacre took place. Sangki on the other hand is a councilman of Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao. (FP/Sunnex)