Fiscals no longer want backhoe operator as massacre witness
MANILA, Philippines - The prosecution panel in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre has withdrawn its request to turn a backhoe operator who allegedly dug the massacre victims’ graves into a state witness.
In a five-page urgent motion filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, the prosecutors told Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes that they no longer wish to present Bong Andal as a state witness.
They said Andal would testify on the things that had already been covered by the testimony of former Sultan sa Barongis vice mayor Sukarno Badal, who was recently allowed by the court to become a state witness.
The prosecutors asked Solis-Reyes to immediately schedule the arraignment of Andal and order his transfer from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame to the Quezon City Jail (QCJ) Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.
Andal was arrested on Nov. 24, 2012 in Midsayap, North Cotabato in an entrapment operation conducted jointly by the local police and the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion.
Following his arrest, the prosecution asked the court to remove him from the list of suspects and allow him to become a state witness. They said he has already been admitted to the Witness Protection Program and has issued a sworn statement detailing his knowledge on the commission of the massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 people, including at least 32 media practitioners.
The defense panel has opposed the bid to convert Andal into a state witness. He was allowed to stay in Camp Crame upon the request of the prosecution, who said his life will be in danger if he “will be confined at the detention facility where he will co-mingle with the other accused against whom he wishes to testify.”
Based on court records, 104 of the initial 197 massacre suspects have already been arrested. Among them were Badal and PO1 Johann Draper, whose case has already been dismissed for lack of merit.
Most of the suspects, including members of the Ampatuan clan, are detained at the QCJ Annex. They have already denied involvement in the massacre dubbed as the single deadliest event for journalists in history.
The media personnel were en route to cover the filing of certificate of candidacy of then Buluan vice mayor and now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu when they were stopped and murdered by more than 100 armed men. Among the dead were Mangudadatu’s wife, relatives, lawyers and aides.