Aug 092013
A private prosecutor in the almost four-year-old Maguindanao massacre case, as well as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), is fearing for the safety of the backhoe operator who buried the grisly crime’s over 50 victims after his transfer to Camp Bagong Diwa has been reportedly approved.

Lawyer Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, legal counsel for the families of several journalists killed in the carnage, said Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 had ordered the transfer of Bong Andal to Camp Bagong Diwa where around 100 accused are detained.

“Baka ilagay siya sa katabing cell ng principal accused. Kawawa naman considering he came out in national media and talked about how he was ordered to bury the victims,” Quinsayas told GMA News Online.

Andal, chief of the equipment detachment in Maguindanao and believed to be the operator of the backhoe that dug the grave of 58 massacre victims, was arrested on November 24, 2012 in Cotabato and was later brought to Manila.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last year said Andal’s testimony would be of great help in resolving the case being heard by the QC RTC Branch 221, which was designated as a special court exclusively handling cases related to the Maguindanao massacre.

The prosecution initially requested Solis-Reyes to turn Andal into a state witness.

The prosecutors, however, later withdrew their request. In explaining their decision, they said Andal would testify on things that had been covered anyway by the testimony of former Sultan sa Barongis vice mayor Sukarno Badal.

In a statement, NUJP chairperson Rowena Paraan expressed “serious concern” over Andal’s scheduled transfer and urged that the order be recalled.

“Putting him in the same detention facility as those who allegedly ordered him to cover up evidence of the slaughter would clearly put him in grave threat,” Paraan said.

She said any threat or harm to the backhoe operator could lead to a “perversion of justice through the loss of such vital testimony.”

Paraan also urged the government to reconsider turning Andal into a state witness.

She said that Andal’s lawyer, Romarico Ayson, has already filed a motion asking Solis-Reyes to reconsider her order to “withdraw and expunge” an earlier petition to include him on the list of witnesses.

Charged with multiple murder were prominent members of the Ampatuan clan, including its clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr.

He and several of his sons and relatives, as well as almost 100 local policemen and supposed members of their private army are currently locked up at the Quezon City Jail Annex inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The clan patriarch, his sons Andal Jr, Rizaldy and Sajid, as well as their relatives Datu Akmad Ampatuan and Anwar Ampatuan Sr., have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

More than 100 of the 196 suspects have already been captured, while the others remain at large. — KBK, GMA News

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