Backhoe operator’s blood pressure shoots up at massacre trialBy Philip C. Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The blood pressure of the man who claimed to have driven the backhoe to the site of the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao shot up under defense questioning, prompting the abrupt suspension of Wednesday’s hearing.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes reset the hearing Thursday after witness Efren Macaranas, the operator of the backhoe used to bury 57 massacre victims and their vehicles, complained of dizziness.
“Please don’t talk with the prosecutors,” Reyes told Macaranas as he left the witness stand.
The judge gave the advice because the defense would resume the cross-examination of Macaranas Thursday.
Defense lawyer Sigfrid Fortun questioned Macaranas for around two hours, trying to punch holes in his testimony that he drove the Kumatsu backhoe to the massacre site on a hill at Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, on Nov. 23, 2009, the day of the massacre.
“What proof do you have to show that you are actually a backhoe operator?” Fortun asked the witness.
Macaranas replied that he had the key and then proceeded to show the court a bronze key with the Kumatsu logo. He also said that he had been given a receipt showing that he was assigned to operate the backhoe but that “someone” took it while he was at the National Bureau of Investigation.
He testified that he parked the backhoe three days before the massacre outside a Petron gas station that was supposedly owned by primary accused, Andal Ampatuan Jr.
“Are you the only person in the entire province who can operate a Kumatsu (backhoe)?” the defense lawyer asked Macaranas. The witness replied that there were others but that he was the one assigned to this particular machine.
Macaranas was asked about the backhoe’s engine and chassis numbers, but could not supply these.
Fortun then went on to outline that several points in Macaranas’ court testimony were not in the statement he gave to the Commission on Human Rights, including his statement that he drove the backhoe up the hill of Masalay “until the coconut trees” but had to abandon it when he heard gunfire.