By Chito Chavez
The principal accused in the Maguindanao massacre case had asked a Quezon City court to re-open the trial on the 58 counts of murder filed against him claiming of the prosecution witness wants to recant his testimony.
In a six-page motion to re-open trial with motion to suspend the promulgation of judgment filed before Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, the camp of accused Andal Ampatuan Jr. through his legal counsel Paul Laguatan said “that his right in asking for the re-opening of the trial is provided under Section 4, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Court.”
Ampatuan claimed that on Oct. 4, 2019, prosecution witness Sukarno Badal contacted him through a representative, claiming that he would want to recant his testimony.
However, Ampatuan failed to identify in his motion who was his representative who talked to Badal regarding the recanting of the said testimony.
Badal, who was vice mayor of Sultan sa Barong municipality, apparently told Ampatuan’s representative that what he mentioned during the presentation of evidence against Ampatuan were not all true.
Badal also allegedly informed the said representative that he would like to be given a chance to shed light on what really transpired on November. 23, 2009.
“Taking into consideration this development, the accused finds it imperative that this witness (Badal) be presented in order to shed light as to what really transpired on Nov. 23, 2009 and surrounding circumstances involved with respect to his testimony,” as stated in the motion of the accused.
Ampatuan’s camp added that under the said provision of the Revised Rules of Court, the courts are empowered to reopen the case provided such reopening was for good reason and in the furtherance of justice.
The accused said the recantation of the prosecution’s star witness is a good reason to reopen the trial.
Ampatuan added that the seriousness of the allegations of Badal in his testimony for the prosecution against all of the accused in the case is undisputed.
“We cannot just turn a blind eye on this development and hide behind the often-used excuse of speedy justice,” the accused added in his motion.
Ampatuan, who claimed that the motion is not meant to delay the promulgation of the decision of the cases, explained that the reopening of the trial is a far better and more prudent course of action for the court to be fully informed of the facts and surrounding circumstances in order to shed light on what really happened on Nov. 23, 2019 and potentially determine whether he is indeed criminally liable.
In the same motion, the accused asked the court to suspend the 90-day period in setting the date of the promulgation of judgment to give way to the reopening of the trial.
Records showed that the trial of the cases was already terminated and is now only awaiting the memorandum supposed to be submitted by the accused before it will submit the cases for decision.
The submission of the accused’s memorandum has been postponed several times following the withdrawal last August of Raymund Fortun as Ampatuan’s legal counsel.
The withdrawal from the case was made during the last day of the supposed submission of the memorandum of the accused.
Solis-Reyes has given the accused a chance to look for a lawyer of his choice when he rejected the services of a counsel de oficio given to him.
Last month, Laguatan entered his appearance as legal counsel of Ampatuan and sought a 15-day period to submit the said memorandum.
However, instead of submitting the memorandum, Laguatan filed the motion for the reopening of the trial.
A legal memorandum is a summary or outline of legal arguments being submitted by both parties, – the prosecution and defense – after the culmination of presentation of all evidence.
Once submitted, the court will then set the promulgation of the cases.