THE prosecution camp in the Maguindanao massacre trial suffered a setback yesterday when its witness Kenny Dalandag was not allowed to testify after the defense camp on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO).
Quezon City RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes deferred Dalandag’s testimony despite the absence of a TRO "out of judicial courtesy."
The defense camp, in their petition, said Dalandag should have been charged first before being admitted as a witness in the massacre of 57 civilians last November 2009.
A total of 197 individuals have been charged for the crime, led by former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Andal "Datu Unsay" Ampatuan Jr., Rizaldy Ampatuan and Sajid Islam Ampatuan. Only 93 of the respondents are currently in custody.
Private prosecutor Harry Roque slammed the TRO petition.
"They were trying to stop him from testifying because he is not only an eyewitness to the crime but he was also present when the meeting was held where the plan to block and attack the convoy was hatched," Roque said.
The prosecution instead presented Akmad Esmael Abubakar, a corn farmer in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town where the killings took place.
Abubakar told the court he witnessed how some of the victims pleaded for their lives before they were murdered in a hilly portion of Sitio Masalay.
Abubakar identified in court one of the accused, Moktar Daud, as among those who herded the victims and who pointed a gun at him when one of the women pleaded for his help.
It was the second time that Abubakar testified in court.
In his testimony October last year, Abubakar narrated he saw Datu Unsay (Ampatuan Jr.) ordering his men to fire at the victims after they were led out of their vehicles.
He said the victims were crying and pleading for their lives but Datu Unsay ignored their pleas and fired his high-powered weapon.
Redempto Villanueva, the lawyer of Rizaldy Ampatuan, asked the court’s permission for his client to seek treatment for his diabetes in a private hospital.
"We want him to undergo an examination due to his fluctuating blood pressure and sugar level. He has been complaining about that for the past two weeks," the lawyer said.
Two associate justices of the Court of Appeals have inhibited from handling the petition of Zaldy Ampatuan who assailed his indictment by the Department of Justice for his involvement in the massacre.
Associate Justices Danton Bueser and Marlene Gonzales-Sison of the CA’s Eleventh Division have recused themselves as they did in a similar case involving Zaldy’s father, Andal Ampatuan Sr.
Families of some victims represented by Roque last February filed a motion for the inhibition of the two associate judges in the light of reports they had been bribed to favor Rizaldy Ampatuan’s motion to be excluded from the complaint.
The two associate justices were replaced by Senior Associate Justices Josefina Salonga and Romeo Barza who were picked yesterday