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Trojan Horse

By HARRY ROQUE

I hate to be KJ (kill joy) after I’ve already been branded as KSP (Kulang sa Pansin). But the truth still has to be told. So please bear with me.

Just when almost everyone thought that the door to

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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

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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

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into the WPP for any other crime is precisely this: while he continues to be an accused in the massacre

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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.

 

CATEGORY: Justice & Human Rights, Justice System, Voices
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  1. Johnny Lin says:

    @Atty. Roque:
    Is there a provision in WPP on the gravity of the charges that will supersede the WPP statute? Both Zaldy and Boomar are not yet convicted from any murder crime. In case of Boomar, both charges are murder while with Zaldy, in case, Maguindanao massacre is a grievious crime compared with election sabotage? Why could Zaldy not be deserving to become a plain state witness without the extreme benefits of WPP provided that when found guilty of Maguindanao massacre he would be committed to jail to serve his sentence accordingly? Could you not petition the court on this provision at the same time become a patriot assisting the government reveal the truth on electoral fraud? Another difference, Boomar was designer of the crime, an admitted participant while Zaldy was an alleged accomplice or mastermind not present in Maguindanao during the crime. Dont get me wrong, I also believe Zaldy is guilty who should be shot publicly but we still have laws about innocence until proven guilty. Isnt that the justice system all about? Unless you dont believe in our system anymore and in that case you should stop representing the defense because your belief is beyond your oath!

  2. Johnny Lin says:

    Trojan horse was successful because historically, nobody took the responsibilty to examine or confined it. Mr. Roque, being the primary lawyer of the Maguindanao massacre victims has the legal if not civic responsibilty to protest, evaluate or accept the Trojan horse. Because of his familiarity, instead of the parting phrase “Beware”, more appropriate would be “Bring In the Trojan horse”. That is more like it on a real crusading lawyer!

  3. Rule 134 of the Revised Rules of Court (Criminal Procedure) which was a reiteration of Rule 23 of the same Rules (Civil Procedure) would allow Atty Roque to perpetuate the testimony of an endangered witness, in this case Jesse. I understand that Jesse was no longer with us because he was murdered by someone who is not interested in him talking to the court authorities.

    If the DOJ was not interested in Jesse, Atty. Roque should have shown more interest on this witness whom he claimed to be a participant in the Maguindanao massacre and therefore could have provide an eye-witness account on this despicable murders and point to the identities of those other involved in the massacre of civilians and media men by perpetuating his testimony. This way, the heat on Jesse could have tapered off because he has already memorialized the contents of what he knew about the case. Part of a lawyer’s duty to protect the best interest of his clients includes the protection of witnesses who could provide a “slum-dunk” evidence against the perpetrators of these crimes?

    Could Jesse be still alive today had Atty. Roque perpetuated his testimony while he was in Manila?

    Suddenly, Atty. Roque was at beef with the DOJ now that it makes a sudden interest in Zaldy Ampatuan in initially considering him a probable witness that could be protected by the DOJ under the WPP. If this guy could provide more evidence against the other members of the Ampatuans and also evidence against election irregularities against GMA, don’t you think he needs more protection than Jesse could have had?

    The guilt of this “songbird” is not the bottomline – the prosecution of the more guilty and the big fish should is. If politics seems to dictate the decision to protect Zaldy so he could provide more clarity on both crimes (massacre and election fraud), this time politics is being used for good cause. You can find me grinning from ear to ear.

  4. Atty. Roque and the DOJ should perpetuate the testimony of Zaldy Ampatuan now. This poor guy could die anytime like Jessie.

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