The moro-moro is back. It’s now playing in Malacañang and its lead star is Zaldy Ampatuan. It’s entitled: “give me immunity and I will tell you the truth”.First, there is the attempt to mislead. Zaldy Ampatuan, co-accused in 58 counts of murder in a massacre that has the notoriety of being attributed to his family name, says that all he wants is “to reveal the truth”. But because this may involve implicating his father and his siblings, he wants to be put in Witness Protection. And yes, according to him, he’s not for asking anything in return. True? Nope. Definitely false. By invoking the Witness Protection Program, Zaldy in effect, wants testimonial immunity for the massacre. This is because according to the law, all those who have been admitted into the Witness Protection Program (WPP) should no longer be charged by government prosecutors for the crime on which he will be testifying. Those already charged should be removed from the list of accused with the government prosecutors moving the court to withdraw the information against the admitted witness. What he should be asking for—if he is genuine and sincere in his effort to reveal the truth—is plain and simple police protection. But of course, in an effort to deceive the public, he mentions the program but claims he wants nothing in exchange.
Then he claims that while he had no participation whatsoever in the planning or the execution of the massacre, he nonetheless acquired information about the massacre after it had happened. This information apparently would prove the criminal culpability of his kin. Well, if this is indeed the case, then the more reason he should not be admitted into the WPP. This is because the WPP, like the Rules of Court on the discharge of an accused as a state witness, requires that the testimony of the person sought to be discharged should be indispensible. After, acquired information about the massacre simply will not fall in this category. In fact, Zaldy’s testimony, whatever it may be, is plain and simple, superfluous. Since he was not indicted as one of the participants in the actual massacre itself on 33 November 2009 but as a co- conspirator in the planning of the same, all that he could testify on are facts relating to the conspiracy. But the prosecution already has at least three witnesses to prove that conspiracy. There is Lakmudin Saliao, the household help who testified there were at least two meetings presided over by Andal Sr., wherein the clan planned the massacre. Saliao positively testified that Zaldy was present and actively participated in these two meetings. There is also the testimony of Kenny Dalagdag who, in addition to be being a participant in the actual shooting, also said in his sworn statement that Zaldy and his father were also present in these preparatory meetings. There are also the further testimonies of at least two policemen corroborating the details of the planning. This is why no less than Justice Secretary Leila De Lima has said that the prosecution no longer needs the testimony of Zaldy. Thanks but no thanks!
The truth of the matter is that the entire Ampatuan clan, and not just Zaldy, appears desperate to have one of them released. Why? For the obvious reason that with the patriarch and Zaldy both behind bars, the clan’s vast financial and political assets are in disarray. Unless one of them is released, and it may as well be Zaldy since he’s the only educated member of the clan, all their assets, including the frozen ones, may all come to naught.
The timing? Well, the Ampatuan name, apart from being synonymous with the massacre, is also notoriously linked to elections. So what better timing than now when the ARMM elections may just happen what with Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel’s petition in the Supreme Court questioning the law postponing the holding of the ARMM elections? It’s ironic the Pimentel’s petitioners include Pax Mangundadatu, PDP-Laban gubernatorial candidate for ARMM and uncle of some of the victims of the massacre.
Then the next intriguing issue: why is no less than the Palace involved in this mess? Note that when we, the people, only learned about Zaldys’ attempt to buy immunity when journalist Gil Cabacungan Jr., quoting Palace sources, wrote that the President already denied the request since it had too many conditions. My instinct then was: who on earth brought Zaldys’ concern to the Palace? Prosecuting the Ampatuan during the GMA administration would have been impossible because of acknowledged ties between Arroyo and the clan. But the Ampatuans apparently continue to be influential in PNoy’s Malacañang. They’re certainly influential enough to have his request for immunity brought directly to the attention of the President, even by-passing the Department Secretary who has jurisdiction over the matter: Secretary De Lima. But there was the good secretary, searching for words, apparently kept in the dark when asked about Zaldy’s bid.
Well the dead rat is out. Secretary Edwin Lacierda, contemporary of Atty. Howard Calleja, Zaldy’s counsel at the Ateneo Law School, declared brazenly that the Palace remains open to Zaldy’s offer. Huh? But didn’t the Chief Executive already reject the said offer? Apparently not. This is why impunity persists in this country.
The moro-moro continues.