A wolf in sheepskin could devour the effort for justice

12 July 2011

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) strongly supports the decision of Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to reject theoffer of suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan’s to turn state witness.

From rumors that began circulating last week, Zaldy Ampatuan finally came out, through television interviews, saying he is now willing to turn the tables and testify against his father, Andal Sr., and
brother, Andal Jr., his co-accused for the grisly Ampatuan Massacre of November 23, 2009.

We suspect that this is a ploy to spare from liability one of the suspected key conspirators of the crime. We are wary of hidden attempts to eventually save the clan from prosecution.

At least one key prosecution witness has identified Zaldy as among those who conspired and plotted the massacre. This already disqualifies him to become state witness.

The Rules of Court requires that for an accused to be admitted state witness, one should “not appear to be the most guilty.” Further, it requires that “there is no other direct evidence available for the
proper prosecution of the offense committed, except the testimony of said accused.”

If, indeed, Zaldy is innocent, why did it take so long, more than a year and a half after the massacre, for him to come out and offer to finger the truly guilty?

Even in the interest of the formal legal process, we note that Zaldy has not been arraigned, and so the people and the court has yet to hear what he has to say, under oath, about the gruesome incident.

The arraignment is prevented by a pending case before the Court Appeals where he sought to be excluded among the 197 people charged with 57 counts of murder.

We also note that in the interview with ABS-CBN reporter Anthony Taberna, Zaldy said he knew of the involvement of his brother and father in the crime from someone who was around when they were
planning it.

So, what new information will he bring?

Steadfastly, the prosecution has emphasized Zaldy is not needed as witness since there are enough testimonies to implicate the accused Ampatuan family members.

This we should make clear: we don’t need to get one big fish off the net in order to catch another two. The smaller fishes already hooked all of them in.

But more than this, the Ampatuan massacre is symbolic of everything that is wrong with our system of governance, the system that allows warlords to rule, plunder and kill with impunity, the system that made the slaughter of November 23, 2009 inevitable, the system from which the Ampatuans and, yes, Zaldy benefited greatly and of which they are very much a part.

It is not just the killers who are on trial. It is also a trial of whether this administration is able or willing to deliver on its pledge of justice and good governance.

We call on those seeking justice for the massacre victims and their families to remain vigilant that justice will not be subverted.

Rowena Paraan, Secretary General, 0910.495.0095


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