MANILA, Philippines—The head of the government prosecution team in the Maguindanao Massacre case has again been replaced.
Assistant Regional Prosecutor Peter Medalle, the former government panel chief, on Saturday said Taguig City Prosecutor Archie Manabat replaced him following his request to be brought back to Zamboanga City.
Medalle said he asked for the transfer because he wanted to be with his family and there were pressing Abu Sayyaf cases to be prosecuted in Zamboanga. The regional prosecutor there is also set to retire on October 23.
“I haven’t been with my family for a long time and there are terrorism cases we have to prosecute here,” Medalle said in an interview.
“This won’t affect the (Maguindanao massacre) case. What’s important is the evidence is intact and the witnesses are there. There will be some adjustment but (Manabat) is a veteran prosecutor,” he added.
This is the second time that the head of the prosecution team was replaced. In March last year, Medalle took over as head of the panel after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima replaced most of the government prosecutors due to squabbles in the prosecution team.
“I have to go back because the government is also hurrying cases against the Abu Sayyaf, including one that would have a court formally declare the group as a terrorist group,” Medalle said.
Private prosecutor Harry Roque Jr. said that the departure of Medalle would not have a negative effect in the prosecution of the case.
“I was also surprised and I thought we were again going back to square one but the case is now moving,” Roque said.
He said Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes has allowed the testimony of three vital government witnesses despite vehement opposition from the defense while the Department of Justice has formally charged the accused for the death of the 58th victim, photojournalist Reynaldo Momay.
“With the filing of the complaint for the 58th victim, we will present as witnesses the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) team that investigated (Momay’s) case. This would include Secretary de Lima (who was then the head of the (CHR),” Roque said.
He said the prosecution team would also move to correct some of the information filed in court for Momay’s case because among those charged were respondents who have signified their intent to turn state witness and are now under the care of the government Witness Protection Program.
The Maguindanao massacre on November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao is considered to be the worst case of election-related violence in the country. It left 58 persons dead, including 32 media practitioners.