Gov’t prosecutors should take hold of prosecution in Ampatuan massacre
I READ the news item titled “Star witness says victims shot dead while praying” (Front Page, 11/24/15) which is the account of Sukarno “Uka” Badal, an eyewitness and a participant in the massacre.
With the real evidence on the ground, the desecrated corpses of the victims, the backhoe used to bury them and the vehicles that were used and other horrific results of the massacre published all over media the day after, it is incredible, indeed inexcusable, that six years after, no judgment of conviction has been rendered against any of those directly responsible.
Let me suggest a few points:
- In criminal cases the responsibility of identifying those responsible for the crime and of prosecuting them lies with the government, particularly the Department of Justice. There can be no passing the buck, not to the defense, and least of all to the court.
- There is no point to determine now what could have been done better by the prosecution; the challenge is how to proceed and conclude the trial expeditiously, at least of those directly responsible.
- Based on the accounts of the trial published over media, there does not seem to be a government prosecutor leading the prosecution. While the justice secretary is not expected to be an active participant in the prosecution of the case, he has to have his “hands on” the strategic direction of the trial and its actual implementation.
- While it would be useful to review how the trial has proceeded and learn some lessons on how it could have been done better, the prosecution should “take hold” of the case and not allow the defense to effectively dictate how the case should proceed. Time, I suggest, for the prosecution to pause, to plan on how the case shall henceforth proceed and not allow the defense to do so, to involve the best of those in the prosecution service (if this has not yet been done), under the active direction of the justice secretary.
—ESTELITO P. MENDOZA, [email protected]
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