Accused in Maguindanao massacre accepted as state witness
MANILA—The Philippine National Police has turned over to the government’s witness protection program a militiaman linked to the Ampatuan clan after a Quezon City judge discharged him from the Maguindanao massacre case and accepted him as a state’s witness.
Supt. Mario Pagulayan Malana, head of the PNP Custodial Center, said in a March 17 letter to Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 that Esmael Canapia had been turned over to two internal security officers of the Witness Protection program two days earlier.
Reyes had earlier discharged Canapia from the case after accepting him as a state witness to testify against some of the 195 people accused of taking part in the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.
“There is no argument that the discharge of an accused operates as an acquittal pursuant to Section 18, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure,” the judge said in her order.
The prosecution had asked for Canapia to be released to the WPP, since it was not expressly directed in the order allowing him to be a witness.
The prosecution also asked the judge to recall him to the stand on March 27 so he can testify against some of the accused who were arraigned after Aug. 27, 2012, the last time he was on the witness stand.
Canapia was a militiaman in Maguindanao during the massacre, which has been blamed on members of the Ampatuan clan that had ruled Maguindanao since 1986 and their followers. He is the prosecution’s second state witness, the first one being Sukarno Badal, a former vice mayor and a known Ampatuan ally.
In her ruling, Reyes pointed out that Canapia was able to identify suspects such as Armando Ambalgan alias Omar Bulatukan; Maot Dumla alias Not Abdul; Ibrahim Kamal Tatak alias Thong Guiamano; and Rakim Kenog alias Rakim Amil.
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