Zaldy Ampatuan applies for gov't protection

Posted at 09/09/2011 12:29 AM | Updated as of 09/09/2011 11:20 AM

Maguindanao massacre victims' lawyer, kin oppose application

MANILA, Philippines - Maguindanao massacre suspect Zaldy Ampatuan has formally applied for the government's Witness Protection Program (WPP).

He submitted his application for protection Thursday, together with a 2-page sworn statement on alleged poll fraud involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Mike in the 2007 elections.

Relatives of victims of the Maguindanao massacre are against Zaldy turning state witness.

They believe this is his ploy to escape jail time for his role in the mass killings.

Lawyer Harry Roque, lawyer for relatives of victims in the Maguindanao massacre, pointed out that once Ampatuan is admitted into the WPP, he will have to stay in a safe house while any threat against his life remains.

So, even if he is found guilty in the massacre case, Ampatuan will not be sent to prison.

Roque also said the case is a challenge to President Benigno Aquino. He warned that the world will laugh at the country if Ampatuan's application is approved.

He said if the Department of Justice wants to look for evidence on fraud in the 2007 elections, it can be found in the 3 impeachment complaints filed against her.

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel is supporting Roque's position and said Ampatuan's statement is not needed.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said any applicant to the program has to undergo intense scrutiny especially since they are entitled to privileges from government.

Arroyo's camp has downplayed Ampatuan's testimony.

Atty. Raul Lambino, the former President's legal spokesman, described Ampatuan's statements as "hearsay," and claimed that the suspended ARMM governor's move is "political vendetta."

Maguindanao Governor Toto Mangudadatu, meanwhile, said he will block Ampatuan's application to be included in the WPP. - Reports from Ina Reformina and Dominic Almelor, ABS-CBN News