By HARRY ROQUE
Just when almost everyone thought that the door to
Malacañang had been shut to Zaldy Ampatuan by PNoy no less, what with the President’s clear statement that the latter will not be accepted as a state witness in the pending massacre case, no less than Justice Secretary Leila De Lima then confirms that Zaldy may still be used as a state witness for other crimes, such as that of election sabotage.
This could be a classic Trojan horse intended to assure Zaldy impunity for all crimes that he has been accused of committing, including the massacre.
How will the admission of Zaldy
into the Witness Protection Program (WPP) for any other crime result in impunity even in the massacre case?
The answer is found in the law that created the Witness Protection Program (WPP), criticized by then UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston for being too political since it falls directly under the supervision and control of the Secretary of Justice. I have had personal experience with the application of this law.
The first incident was my unsuccessful attempt to seek the admission into the program of Upham Suwaib, the self-confessed Maguindanao massacre participant who was then known as Jesse when he was interviewed by some TV stations. The second incident involves one of the witnesses in the murder case of journalist Dr. Gerry Ortega of RMN Palawan. I am representing the family of Dr. Ortega in the complaint filed before the Department of Justice.
In Doc Gerry’s case, the star witness Rodolfo Edrad, also known as “Boomar” alleged in a sworn statement details of how former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes retained his services and financed the conspiracy to kill Doc Gerry. On the basis of this statement, “Boomar” applied and was admitted into the WPP. Curiously, we found out that he was then indicted as an accused in a separate murder case in the province of Quezon. Immediately after the indictment, the counsel for Joel Reyes sought to remove “Boomar” from the WPP and asked that he be immediately transferred to the custody of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon, which had issued a warrant for his arrest.
Even at the risk of incurring contempt of court, the WPP did not surrender “Boomar” to the custody of the Quezon Court. The WPP invoked Section 8 of the law, which vests into the WPP custody over all those admitted into the program. The provision indicates that witnesses admitted into the program have the right to “ a secure housing facility until he has testified or until the threat, intimidation or harassment disappears or is reduced to a manageable or tolerable level.” This right is available not just to the witness himself, but also extends to his spouse and children.
Accordingly, the Quezon RTC has since ruled that “Boomar,” despite the warrant of arrest against him, can continue to remain under the custody of the WPP.
Zaldy out of jail?
Applied to Zaldy’s case, the danger with his admission
into the WPP for any other crime is precisely this: while he continues to be an accused in the massacre
and while he could even be convicted for it, he will remain in the “secure housing facility” provided for him by the WPP.
This could be for the rest of his life, as surely, the “threat, intimidation or harassment” emanating from his kin or from GMA, borne of his incriminating testimony, is not likely to cease during his lifetime.
Conceivably, Zaldy need not spend even a day in Muntinlupa. Due to limitations in government resources, it is possible for Zaldy himself to provide his own housing provided he is secured there by operatives from the WPP.
If he is admitted into the WPP for his testimony on the election sabotage and plunder cases and not necessarily due to what he knows about the massacre in Ampatuan town, Zaldy may end up not staying in jail. He could retire in one of the many Ampatuan mansions, protected in his lifetime by government agents, and even drawing an allowance from government for the rest of his life.
No one can dispute that many of us want to see PGMA investigated, prosecuted and punished for her many sins, all of which were included in three impeachment complaints that we filed against her, with no less than then Rep. Noynoy Aquino as an endorser in the first two.
It should however, not be at the expense of the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre.
Beware of the Trojan horse.