Alleged backhoe operator in Maguindanao massacre dropped as state witness
MANILA, Philippines—The alleged backhoe operator in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre has been dropped as a prosecution witness and will instead be charged as one of 195 accused.
State prosecutors have asked a Quezon City court to immediately arraign Bong Andal, the alleged backhoe operator who dug the grave of 58 massacre victims, 32 of whom were media workers.
Prosecution panel head Archimedes Manabat said their decision to drop Andal as witness had something to do with the court testimony of state witness Sukarno Badal.
The state prosecutors, in a motion to withdraw their petition for the exclusion of Andal as an accused in the massacre case filed with Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, said they have decided to do away with Andal’s offer to testify for the prosecution.
“After a thoughtful consideration that the matters he (Andal) would testify on had already been covered by the testimony given in open court on February 14, 20, 21, and 27, by Sukarno Badal, who was recently dropped and excluded from the information, the panel of public prosecutors reached a decision not to present Bong Andal anymore as a witness,” the motion read.
The Ampatuans, the primary accused in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, had previously rejected the bid of Andal to turn state witness claiming that the Maguindanao provincial government employee and backhoe operator was disqualified under the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.
“There is no absolute necessity for Bong Andal’s testimony. The prosecution has presented at least four alleged eyewitnesses, the character of whose testimonies were confirmed by this honorable Court. The alleged eyewitnesses had testified on the supposed planning and cover-up of the massacre,” they had argued.
The state prosecutors further asked Reyes that their petition to discharge Andal as an accused be expunged from the court records and asked that the backhoe operator be detained at the Quezon City Jail-Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Reyes meanwhile scheduled the arraignment of four of the 195 accused in the Maguindanao massacre for Wednesday at the makeshift court in Camp Bagong Diwa.
Reyes directed the warden of the Quezon City Jail-Annex to make sure that former Mamasapano town councilman Talembo Masukat, Dexson Saptula, Norhato Kamino and Abedin Alamada are present for their arraignment.
Masukat was arrested on Feb. 16 after he and several other armed men engaged members of the Army 45th Infantry Battalion at Barangay (village) Manungkaling, Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.
Masukat carried a P300,000 reward for his arrest as one of suspects in the massacre of 58 persons in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.
Masukat was identified as a trusted aide of Mamasapano town mayor Bahnarin Ampatuan, another accused in the massacre and grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. He had also worked as a driver for the ex-governor’s eldest daughter, Bai Rebecca Ampatuan.
Datu Abdullah Sangki town councilor Mohammad Sangki had said it was Masukat who relayed to him the alleged plan to block the Mangudadatu convoy and who deployed on Nov. 19, four days before the massacre, a dozen members of a civilian auxiliary unit to a checkpoint at Crossing Saniag in Sitio Masalay. The checkpoint was near the site of the grisly killings.
Saptula, on the other hand, was arrested on July 19, 2012 in Sarangani province and is identified as a former Ampatuan employee.
Kamino, also an alleged Ampatuan clan employee, disappeared after the massacre. He was arrested on Oct. 21, 2012 in Glan town, Sarangani province after finding work at a banana plantation.
Alamada is an alleged former militiaman and armed follower of the Ampatuans suspected of taking part in the killings. He carried a P250,000 bounty and was arrested on Nov. 1, 2012 in South Cotabato.