Petition to include 2 witnesses as accused in massacre case junked-A A +A
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
A PETITION that sought the inclusion of two state witnesses as part of the accused in the Maguindanao massacre case has been rejected by a Manila regional trial court (RTC).
Mohamad Sangki and Lakmodin Saliao was cleared from involvement in the murder of 57 individuals, among them 31 journalists, in an incident known as the Maguindanao massacre.
This was indicated by an order issued by Judge Armando Yanga of the Manila RTC branch 173 after the petition was filed by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., one of the principal suspects in the massacre.
Ampatuan's allegations that the Department of Justice (DOJ) committed grave abuse and discretion in allowing the two to be enrolled in the Witness Protection Program (WPP) had no merit, the order said.
The same order said that the proper venue for Ampatuan's petition is Quezon City RTC branch 221. It added that this has been designated by the Supreme Court in June 28, 2010 as a special court "with full authority to hear and resolve any matter and issue which may arise from the murder cases pertaining to the Maguindanao massacre."
"The principal purpose of this subject Administrative Memorandum is to achieve genuine speedy trial. It is adopted to expedite the decision of resolution of cases and any or all matters pertaining to the above-mentioned cases subject to the Special Court… Sporadic filing of cases related to the Maguindanao massacre cases to different courts, such as the present cases, negates the very intention by which the special court was created," said Yanga.
While Saliao may have been involved in the crime, he was not the most guilty enough to qualify him as a state witness, Yanga's order said.
As a result, this entitled to immunity from criminal prosecution under Section 12 of Republic Act 6981, the law creating the WPP.
Ampatuan’s petition sought to compel Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the prosecution panel to investigate and indict Sangki and Saliao for involvement in the carnage.
During the massacre case trial, Sangki said that he learned from Nurudin Datumanong Ampatuan, a confidante of Andal Jr., that the plan to ambush the victims was allegedly hatched by clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr.
For his part, Saliao told the court that Ampatuan Sr. tried to bribe police and government officials to ensure that the separate rebellion charges against the powerful family will be dismissed. (ECV/Sunnex)