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MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2, 3:30 p.m.) Following the report on the killing of a fourth witness, Malacanang on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to hasten the trial of the so-called Ampatuan massacre, which is approaching its third year on Nov. 23.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda made a public appeal to acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio to "hasten the trial without affecting due process," following the killing of a fourth witness.
"Let us have a speedy trial," he said.
Lacierda also asked all the other witnesses in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre to accept the security and protection being offered by the government.
He said it was "unfortunate" that the witnesses who refused government protection are being murdered one after the other.
"We will again offer them security. We do not want their lives threatened, or in this case, terminated," he said.
"Those who have been provided government security are still alive...We are urging all witnesses to accept security, knowing that there are attempts on their lives," the Palace official added.
Independent Ampatuan case monitoring
In relation to this, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said the government should move to immediately secure and give protection to witnesses in the Ampatuan trial in the wake of the recent killing of another witness
Rowena Carranza-Paraan, NUJP secretary general, also pushed for an independent monitoring of the case to determine what could be done to plug the gaping holes in the trial involving the influential Ampatuan clan, accused of being behind the murder of 58 people, including journalists, on November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao.
“The Ampatuan case is revealing all the deficiencies in the justice system. A weak witness protection program, lack of political will by authorities to pursue all accused, gaping holes in the court proceedings are only some. The murders of witnesses and relatives are the most glaring examples,” Paraan said.
“If in a case like the Ampatuan massacre the state is unable to do its job, how much more in other cases that are less monitored?” she added.
Fourth slain witness
Alijol Ampatuan was initially reported missing until it was established that he was the same Menjie Mangulamas Ubpon who was shot by two men on a motorcycle on Feb. 21 in Shariff Aguak.
Alijol was an alleged aide of Kanor Ampatuan, cousin of prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Sr. He was also a leader of the civilian volunteer organization that took part in the massacre.
Lawyer Nena Santos had said in a report that the prosecution had been searching for Alijol to make him a state witness. He was supposed to identify the 36 militiamen who took part in the mass killing.
Ubpon is the fourth witness in the Ampatuan massacre killed. Early this month, Esmail Enog's dismembered body was found in Mamasapano in Maguindanao.
Also, accused turned witness Police Officer 2 Hernanie Decipulo jumped to death inside Camp Bagong Diwa last February.
In 2010, Suwaid Upham was shot to death in Parang, Maguindanao.
Alijol Ampatuan, potential witness in the Ampatuan massacre, is dead and had been killed as soon as he went missing last February, the Commission on Human Rights-Region XII confirmed.
Supporting Santos’s statement Wednesday, lawyer Christina Jovero, CHR-12 regional director, informed Ma. Reynafe Momay, daughter of victim Reynaldo Momay, that General Santos police confirmed Alijol’s death.
According to the report signed by Senior Supt. Marcelino Pintac, GenSan City police director, Alijol sustained gunshot wounds in the chest and left arm.
The prosecution, through Santos, said it was planning to include Alijol as one of the witnesses.
In July 2011, witness Esmail Amil Enog claimed Alijol was his superior in a civilian volunteer organization who ordered him to drive the 36 militiamen to the hilly portion of Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan town and kill the 58 people.
Enog was also reported dead after being declared missing since March.
Alijol is a distant relative of the six Ampatuans, among them Zaldy, Andal Sr. and Andal Jr., who are primary accused in the massacre.
Chichi Conde, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Rupert Mangilit, and Lorenz Niel Santos | InterAksyon.com