Ampatuan lawyers block bid of 3 accused to turn witnessesBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Lawyers representing the prime suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre are blocking the bid of a policeman and two others to become state witnesses in the gruesome killings.
Philip Sigfrid Fortun and Precious Angela Lledo, defense counsels of Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Zaldy and Andal Jr., are asking a Quezon City court to junk the motions to discharge Inspector Rex Ariel Diongon, Esmael Canapia and Takpan Dilon from the list of 195 accused.
According to the Ampatuan lawyers, Diongon, Canapia and Dilon are not qualified to become state witnesses and their testimonies will only serve as corroborative accounts of the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre of 57 people.
Fortun appealed to Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Regional Trial Court Branch 221 to deny the prosecution’s motion to discharge the three accused as state witnesses “for lack of merit.”
Early this year, the prosecution sought to have Diongon and company admitted as state witnesses, citing the “absolute necessity” for their testimonies.
Diongon is a police officer while Canapia and Dilon are militiamen, all charged in connection with the mass murders.
Diongon is expected to identify members of the 1507th and 1508th Maguindanao provincial mobile group allegedly involved in the massacre, while the two civilians will reveal the supposed involvement of other accused militia members.
The Ampatuan lawyers pointed out that the court has previously junked Diongon’s first attempt to be state witness.
“The court has already made a final determination that there is no absolute necessity for Diongon’s testimony to justify his discharge as state witness,” Fortun said in a nine-page opposition.
As to Dilon and Canapia, the defense claimed the two militiamen are not entitled to be state witnesses as they “appear to be guilty.”
Fortun explained that the two civilians, who were found carrying recently fired M16s, were among the first to be arrested after the massacre.
Dilon and Canapia were militiamen reportedly under the control of then Ampatuan town mayor Zacaria Sangki Ampatuan.
“Clearly, Dilon and Canapia were considered principal actors in the Maguindanao massacre and are such, disqualified from being state witnesses,” the defense argued.