GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 November)– That commentary of Carlos H. Conde in yesterday’s MindaNews says a lot that concerned government authorities, particularly the Court, must hear, heed and act upon to resolve the Ampatuan massacre case. The case is a special one and should be specially prosecuted otherwise it will outlive the resident judge’s tenure in office and that of one who will take over. It is not enough for Malacañang to boldly state in media that “the Ampatuan Case is still the President’s priority”.
According to Conde, a key or star witness for the prosecution, Bong Andal – who operated the backhoes that dug the vast grave for the massacre victims and their vehicles – told him in a phone conversation that should he testify in court his family would be wiped out. He has been closely watched by the executioners of the prime accused Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. The “unambiguous threat” that Conde spoke of is not just for Bong Andal but for all who would dare testify in court against the Ampatuans.
So, besides the Rules of Court that the well-paid Ampatuan lawyers have liberally exploited to delay the trial for four years now, the lack of eye-witnesses evidence will most probably lead to “insufficient evidence” that will not convict the Ampatuans “beyond reasonable doubt”. And, if the Regional Court renders a “Guilty” verdict with evidence the defense will perceive as weak or insufficient, appeals to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court will delay justice for another generation of judges and justices.
Under the dire circumstances, are eye-witnesses indispensable in the Ampatuan Massacre Case?
There was no eye-witness to the kidnapping of “Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., 20-month-old son of the famous aviator and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was kidnapped about 9:00 p.m., on March 1, 1932, from the nursery on the second floor of the Lindbergh home near Hopewell, New Jersey”. Yet, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, a carpenter, after having been identified and arrested as the kidnapper through expert investigation, was convicted of first degree murder through circumstantial evidence and electrocuted.
Following is an excerpt from an on-line story of “The Lindberg Kidnapping” under the masthead of the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
“The trial of Hauptmann began on January 3, 1935, at Flemington, New Jersey, and lasted five weeks. The case against him was based on circumstantial evidence. Tool marks on the ladder matched tools owned by Hauptmann. Wood in the ladder was found to match wood used as flooring in his attic. Dr. Condon’s [Dr. Condon was the ransom intermediary] telephone number and address were found scrawled on a door frame inside a closet. Handwriting on the ransom notes matched samples of Hauptmann’s handwriting.”
Through eye-witnesses, the prosecution would like to establish that Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. ordered the massacre and the mass burial and the Ampatuan father and sons planned the killing. From media reports, it appears that the victims have to be identified by their kin.
From the police and military investigators and their investigation reports, can the armed group and their leader who perpetrated the massacre not be identified? Can the ownership of the guns not be established? Are eye-witnesses necessary to testify that those guns were used in the massacre when they were found in the massacre scene? Can Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu not testify to the motive of the massacre? Were the text messages sent out by the victims before they were gunned down of no probative value? Are the testimonies of the victims kin necessary?
The best witnesses in lieu of the eye-witnesses are the police and military investigators with their investigation reports including photographs and, for the motive, Governor Mangudadatu. The Ampatuans cannot intimidate them.
The Ampatuan Massacre is not an ordinary case. It is a mass murder like a war crime. In Europe, until now, extraordinary cases are tried by Special Courts. Had such a Court been established, the trials could have already been finished. [Author’s Note: Mind da News, an alternate of COMMENT, is specifically an opinion on current news. firstname.lastname@example.org]