By Chito Chavez
A Quezon City judge stressed the repeated filing of motions by Maguindanao massacre principal accused Andal Ampatuan with similar allegations must stop as the proceedings will become ad infinitum or without ending.
This was pointed out by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 in her six-page order junking for lack of merit Ampatuan’s motion for reconsideration (MR) asking the court to grant him again additional trial dates this August for the presentation of his sur-rebuttal witnesses.
“The Court is of the view that the repeated filing of motions by the accused-movant (Ampatuan) bearing similar allegations, which obviously violates its clear directive pursuant to the order dated May 21, 2019, must be stopped lest the proceedings of these cases will become ad infinitum, thereby resulting not only to the prejudice of the private complainants but also his co-accused as well, who had long terminated the presentation of their evidence,” as stated in the order.
Ampatuan through his legal counsel filed the MR asking the court to reverse its June 26, 2019 order denying his appeal to set additional hearing dates, particularly on Aug. 15, 28 and 29, for the presentation of his sur-rebuttal witnesses for the 58 counts of murder cases filed against him.
In the said motion, the accused claimed that the witnesses he intends to present, who are the very same witnesses of the prosecution, are reluctant to testify as they fear for their lives and their families as well.
However, the accused added that he cannot provide the same protection and benefit to his indigent witnesses in order to secure their attendance in court, as that provided by the government.
During the hearing of the MR last July 11, the prosecution through Moises Acayan objected to the motion stressing that it’s filing was intended for delay.
Acayan cited the April 26 and May 21, 2019 orders of the court wherein it was clearly stated that the failure of the defense to present its witnesses will be construed as a waiver on its part.
The prosecutor also reiterated that the nature of the testimony of the intended additional witnesses is merely corroborative and following several jurisprudences, non-presentation is not a suppression of evidence.
In denying the MR, Reyes noted that based on court records, from the time the accused’s presentation of evidence (in-chief) was first set on several dates in April 2018, no less than eight cancellations of hearings were granted by the court at his instance in order to afford him ample opportunity to present his witnesses.
“Also the court, pursuant to the oral request of his counsel, has granted the accused four settings for the presentation of his sur-rebuttal evidence with a warning that should he fail to present his evidence,” Reyes added in her order.
The judge further noted that prior to the scheduled hearings, however, the accused filed an urgent motion to cancel hearing which was granted.
In view of the granting of Ampatuan’s motion, he was again given another four settings to present his sur-rebuttal evidence with a warning that no motion which will result in the resetting of the presentation of his sur-rebuttal evidence should be entertained by the court.
“After presenting one witness, he (Ampatuan) again filed an urgent motion to cancel hearing…offering same reason he invoked before to reset the hearing, i.e..difficulty in obtaining the consent of witnesses to testify due to threat and issue of security of witnesses and their families,” the court further noted.
The court added that as correctly pointed out by the prosecution, the right to speedy disposition is not only for the accused but also to all the parties.
“To reiterate, it appearing that the nature of the testimonies of accused additional sur-rebuttal witnesses is merely corroborative, their presentation may be dispensed with and their non-presentation does not constitute suppression of evidence,” Reyes added in her order.
In the same order, Reyes has granted the motion to admit attached ad cautelem (sic) Formal Offer of Evidence also filed by the accused, wherein the court admitted Exhibits 109 and series and Exhibits 110 and series consisting of the judicial affidavit of Laguidin Alfonso dated June 18, 2019, his name and signature and alleged Sinumpaang Salaysay of Thonti Lawani dated Jan. 17, 2010, respectively, as part of evidence in sur-rebuttal of accused.
Following the junking of the accused’s MR and the admission of his evidence, the court has given both parties 15 days to file their respective memoranda.
“After the lapse of said period, with or without the parties memoranda, the cases should be deemed submitted for decision,” Judges Reyes added in her order.