By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Ampatuans implicated in the massacre of 57 people – 32 of whom are journalists – may be behind bars, but it does not mean that they are powerless.
On April 27 a warden of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology warden granted the request of Andal Unsay Ampatuan Jr. to transfer 12 police officers from Maguindanao to join him in his detention cell in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
The 12 police officers who were charged with rebellion with other 28 members of the Philippine National Police reportedly gave statements that implicated the Ampatuans to the brutal carnage of journalists, lawyers and civilians in November 23, 2009, dubbed as the Ampatuan Massacre.
In an interview with lawyer Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, one of the private prosecutors representing the kin of the victims, she said the 12 police officers gave statements that strengthened the case of the prosecution, thus, implicating the town mayor and other members of the Ampatuan family to the massacre.
The 12 police officers are SPO2 Badawi Bakal, SPO1 Oscar Donato, SPO1 Ong, PO3 Felix Enate, PO3 Abibudin Abdulgani, PO2 Saudiar Ulah, PO2 Saudi Pasutan, PO2 Hernani Decipulo, PO1 Esprielito Lejarso, PO1 Herich Amaba, PO1 Abdulla Baguadato and PO1 Hamad Nana
“There are possibilities that they will be threatened,” Quinsayas told Bulatlat, adding that it may further lead to the recantation of their earlier statement.
Eleven of the 12 police officers who were transferred to Ampatuan’s detention cell were then directly reporting to Police Inspector Rex Ariel Diongon, who is being eyed by the prosecution to become one of their state witnesses. Quinsayas said aside from the possibility that they would be intimidated to recant their earlier affidavits , the 12 police officers could be forced to issue statements that would discredit Diongon.
Diongon is the head of the Regional Mobile Group 1508 of Maguindanao, an elite police force involved in counterinsurgency operations. But since investigations on the Ampatuan massacre started, many cops from RMG 1508 have been implicated in the massacre.
The prosecutors have already submitted a motion to discharge four detained police officers implicated in the massacre, who are set to become state witnesses. They are Michael Joy Macaraeg and Rainer Ebus of PNP, Mohammad Sangki, a local politician in Ampatuan town, and Diongon.
Like Diongon, other potential state witnesses have already been intimidated to retract their statements implicating the Ampatuans to the massacre. This include the filing of murder charges against Sangki, a day after he testified against the Ampatuans on January 27. The Department of Justice later on dismissed the case on a separate resolution that was also dated April 17. The DoJ found out that no preliminary investigation was conducted by the Maguindanao prosecutors. According to Quinsayas, the conduct of a preliminary investigation is vital for murder charges.
Then on March 21, an improvised explosive device was delivered to Sangki at the Phonex Gasoline Station. It was later on detonated by the PNP bomb squad. But perhaps the worst intimidation that was received by Sangki is the murder of his three relatives attributed also to his testimony against the Ampatuans.
Ebus’ older brother was also shot at but fortunately, according to Quinsayas, he survived the attempt to kill him.
Five months since the massacre, the judicial proceedings have been delayed several times by legal technicalities, which includes more than a dozen judicial motions, the hearings on the bail petition, and the prolonged postponement of the bail hearings itself. In a resolution dated April 17, Justice secretary Alberto Agra dropped the murder charges against the two primary suspects namely, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Mamasapano Mayor Datu Akmad Ampatuan, citing alibi as the basis. The two presented plane tickets and cellphone records showing that the y were not in Maguindanao when the massacre took place.
Eventually, Agra reversed his own decision in a 30-page resolution on May 6, saying that he gave weight to the new eyewitnesses that implicated the two suspects. But Agra refused to inhibit himself from the case even after three private prosecutors namely Nena Santos, Prima Jesusa Quinsayas and Ma. Gemma Oquendo requested him to inhibit himself from participating in the proceedings after his controversial April 17 resolution. (Bulatlat.com)