Court junks motion to block witness not in prosecution’s lineup
MANILA, Philippines—The Quezon City Regional Trial Court handling the Maguindanao massacre case has denied a motion by lawyers of principal suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. seeking to block the testimony of a witness they claimed was not mentioned in the pretrial order.
In a seven-page omnibus order, Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes of RTC Branch 221 also resolved similar issues raised by defense lawyers, such as allowing a private counsel to present transcripts of her exchanges with her sister, one of the 57 civilians brutally slain in Ampatuan town in November 2009.
“Parties should be allowed a certain latitude in the presentation of their evidence lest they may be so hampered that the ends of justice may eventually be defeated or appear to be defeated,” she said. “The danger of leading to such result must be avoided.”
Sigfrid Fortun, Andal Jr.’s lead counsel, had vehemently opposed the prosecution’s move to place Amil Abdul Maliwawaw to the witness stand, pointing out that his name was never included in the prosecution’s list of witnesses presented to the court before the start of the trial.
Fortun said that by doing so, it gave the prosecution undue advantage since both parties agreed to limit their presentation of witnesses to those on the list.
But Judge Reyes pointed out that a portion of the amended pretrial order, where both prosecution and defense panels itemized the names of their witnesses and other evidence they would send, indicated that state counsels reserved the right to present witnesses not mentioned in the list.
Judge Reyes did acknowledge that Maliwawaw was not included in the prosecution’s list of witnesses, but the importance of his testimony had been sufficiently established by Regional Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Medalle.
The judge also allowed private lawyer Gemma Oquendo, sister of massacre victim Cynthia Oquendo, to submit to the court a 30-page transcript of their exchanges on Nov. 23, 2009 as the latter and 56 others were mowed down by gunmen purportedly under orders of primary suspect Andal Jr.
Photojournalist Reynaldo Momay has been recorded as the 58th fatality in what is considered the worst election-related violence in Philippine history, but his body remains missing.
Judge Reyes explained that such transcriptions needed a “testimonial sponsor” so that it could be properly presented in court as evidence. She likewise upheld the prosecution’s move to have forensics analysts from the National Bureau of Investigation to testify on the transcript’s integrity.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Halima Daud, widow of massacre victim Rasul Daud, took the witness stand to testify with regard to the civil aspect of the case.
In her testimony at a judicial affidavit that the prosecution adopted, Halima recounted how she found out about the massacre and described her ordeal in looking for the remains of her husband, a 26-year-old executive assistant at the legislative assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On the day of the massacre Halima, then pregnant with their second child, was ill and confined at a hospital with their firstborn, Ramil.
When she learned about the massacre, she mustered all the strength she had to leave the medical facility, and scour all funeral parlors in Buluan town, where she and her husband resided.
In the days that followed, she went as far as Koronadal and Tacurong cities, identifying the remains of the other victims until she found her husband, the affidavit said.
Halima left it to the court to put a value on her husband’s life, saying “no amount of money can replace him.”
But she pegged at P35 million the amount she needed to provide for her two children, and P1 billion the exemplary damages caused by the accused, whom she noted were “moneyed.”
Defense lawyer Andres Manuel took note of how Halima did not understand the English language as indicated by the assistance extended to her by a court interpreter during her testimony.
The lawyer likewise questioned how she managed to give a detailed breakdown of the burial expenses she incurred despite not compiling receipts.
Halima reasoned that in the Muslim culture, issuing receipts was not a practice.
Manuel also observed that the widow could not estimate the number of people who came to her husband’s wake yet she again listed in detail the burial expenses.