Oops! Witness tags wrong accused in Maguindanao massacre trial
A government witness on Thursday pointed to the wrong accused in the Maguindanao massacre trial when he was asked to identify the former Maguindanao provincial police chief.
Army Staff Sgt. Jimmy Coronel, an intelligence officer of the 64th Infantry Battalion, pointed to PO1 Ebarra G. Bebot and identified him as former Maguindanao provincial police chief P/Chief Insp. Sukarno Dicay.
The real Dicay happened to be sitting on the other side of the courtroom at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.
“Sir Dicay, congratulations,” Dicay later greeted Bebot as they were being led out of the courtroom for the lunch break.
Coronel was assigned to Maguindanao at the time of the massacre on Nov. 23, 2009, in Sitio (sub-village) Masalay, Barangay (village) Salman, Ampatuan town, in which 57 people were killed allegedly on orders of members of the politically powerful Ampatuan clan.
Of the 196 suspects in the case, only 96 had been captured by the authorities, including some Ampatuans.
Coronel took the witness stand Thursday and told the court that he and a fellow intelligence officer had tried to go to Sitio Masalay on the morning of the massacre.
“We were ordered (by superiors) to confirm if Mangudadatu supporters had been apprehended,” Coronel told Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.
But when they reached Crossing Masalay, the two turned back after they were spotted by a group of armed policemen and militiamen who had set up a check point.
Coronel said they encountered several other checkpoints on the national highway, some of them manned by heavily armed militiamen “in police uniform.” He said he saw Dicay at one of the checkpoints.
It was these policemen and militiamen that Coronel was asked to identify among the more than 50 accused who were brought down from their jail cells Thursday.
Coronel stepped down from the witness stand and looked at the faces of the men but he apparently could not identify any of them. As he was about to return to the witness stand, he pointed to Bebot who was sitting beside the aisle and said he was “Dicay.” Philip C. Tubeza
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