Maguindanao massacre: Court allows presentation of embalmer

Posted at 03/08/14 10:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Quezon City court handling the Maguindanao massacre trial has allowed the presentation as witness of an embalmer who processed the body of one of the victims and found a cell phone bearing text messages sent moments before the bloodbath.

In a three-page order released yesterday, Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes denied the motion for reconsideration of some of the accused – including former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. – that questioned the presentation of embalmer Jonito Puton.

Puton was conditionally allowed to be presented as a prosecution witness in May 2012. He testified on his discovery of the cell phone of lawyer Cynthia Oquendo, one of the victims in the Nov. 23, 2009 murders.

The cell phone was later examined by the National Bureau of Investigation, revealing the alleged text messages of the victim to a number of colleagues moments before the massacre.

In their motion, the defense panel argued that Puton was not included in the initial list of witnesses noted in various pre-trial orders of the court. They claim that the forgetfulness of the prosecution panel to include him during the pre-trial is not a ground for allowing him to be presented.

But in her order, Solis-Reyes said an earlier decision of the Court of Appeals on similar cases of four other unlisted witnesses can be applied in this case. The CA decided to allow the unlisted witnesses since it was for a good cause.

“The issue as to the propriety of presenting witness Jonito Puton as a witness in the evidence-in-chief as against all accused notwithstanding the fact that he is an unlisted witness as against accused-movants is already settled,” read the order.

Oquendo is one of the 58 people – including 32 media practitioners – who died in the massacre, dubbed as the single worst incident for journalists in history.