May 2, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – The Quezon City court handling the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case has ordered the transfer of custody of a suspect-turned-state witness from the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
In a 28-page order, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 221 directed the chief of the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame to transfer the custody of police Inspector Rex Ariel Diongon to the Witness Protection Program of the DOJ.
The court, in the same ruling, granted the motion for the discharge of Diongon to be utilized as a state witness.
In her April 25 order, Reyes said the court granted the motion of the prosecution panel to remove Diongon from the list of the accused as it found the petition “impressed with merit.”
The prosecution panel earlier said Diongon, then director of the 1508th Provincial Mobile Group in Maguindanao, could testify on “the nature and extent of the atrocity committed” by the suspects.
The prosecution also said Diongon could testify on his co-accused “specific participations in the commission of the crime charged.”
The panel further noted that he does not appear to be the most guilty among the accused and has not at any time been convicted of any offense involving “moral turpitude.”
The defense panel has opposed Diongon’s discharge, saying there is no need for his testimony.
The defense lawyers said the testimonies of Diongon and five other prosecution witnesses are merely corroborative in nature.
They noted that Diongon’s testimony, by itself, may not be all that strong as evidence.
But in her order, Reyes said Diongon’s testimony, specifically identifying several accused, becomes absolutely necessary for the state to utilize.
The judge noted that Diongon was able to identify 50 suspects in the massacre, including some whom he uniquely identified.
“Beyond making unique identifications, Diogon also relayed distinctive testimonies,” said Reyes.
“These testimonies are not merely corroborative, but portray the actual roles played by the accused in carrying out the alleged plan to eliminate victims,” she added.
In sum, Reyes said the court found that his testimony “had been substantially corroborated in its material points” by other witnesses.
She added that the court is also of the view that Diongon does not appear to be the most guilty in the case.
Diongon will be the prosecution panel’s third state witness after the court also allowed the discharge of Esmael Canapia, a member of the Civilian Volunteer Organization in Ampatuan town, in February 2014, and Sukarno Badal, a former vice mayor of Sultan sa Barongis town, in February 2013.
Diongon earlier testified in court that the victims pleaded for their lives, while they were being beat up by gunmen led by primary suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr.
A total of 197 suspects have been initially charged for the gruesome murder of 58 people, including 32 media practitioners, at Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009. – AIB