By Chito Chavez
A Quezon City court has allowed Andal Ampatuan Jr., the Maguindanao massacre case principal accused, to present additional witnesses as part of his surrebuttal evidence on the murder charges filed against him.
In a three-page order, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 221 granted the omnibus motion filed by Ampatuan through his legal counsel Ernest Levanza.
However, Reyes warned that should the accused fail to present evidence on the trial dates set by the court, he shall be considered to have waived his right to present his evidence.
In his Omnibus Motion, the accused asked the court to allow him to present additional evidence set in four trial dates in order to controvert claims against his defense.
Surrebuttal is the process of providing response to an opposite party’s answer, which means that it is a rebuttal to a rebuttal.
In the same motion, the accused also asked the court to hold in abeyance the submission of memorandum by both parties until he rests his case upon the completion of the presentation of surrebuttal evidence.
During the hearing of the motion on April 16, the prosecution panel had orally opposed the motion on the grounds that the court had already accorded the accused sufficient opportunity to present his evidence not only in bail but also in the presentation of his evidence-in-chief.
“… And if the Court will allow the accused another stage of the trial which is the presentation of sur-rebuttal, it would only delay the proceedings especially that it is only the accused who is the last accused who has yet to submit his memorandum,” the prosecution panel added in their opposition.
The prosecution further argued that despite receipt of the court’s order dated March 20, requiring parties to submit their memorandum, the accused filed the omnibus motion which should not be treated as a motion for reconsideration.
The prosecution was referring to the order of Reyes directing them and the accused to submit their respective memoranda after the latter failed to comment on the prosecution’s Formal Offer of Rebutal Evidence despite giving him a chance to comment or oppose on said offer within five days.
The prosecution’s formal offer asked the court to admit Exhibit “(20) P” and submarkings- a Sworn Statement of a prosecution witness consisting of five pages- as part of their evidence against Ampatuan.
Legal memorandum is a case summary or short synopsis of a case and must include legal arguments and should contain legal citations that support the legal arguments being put forward in the memorandum. It is being submitted before the court will decide on a case and be set for promulgation.
But in granting the omnibus motion of the accused, Reyes explained that “there is no gain saying that the presentation of the surrebuttal evidence is allowed under the Revised Rules of Court.”
“Given that the prosecution was allowed to present its rebuttal evidence, it is only but fair that the accused-movant be likewise given a chance to present his surrebuttal evidence notwithstanding the filing of the instant motion beyond the 15-day period from receipt of order dated March 20, 2019, in the interest of justice,” as stated in the order.
However, the court reminded the accused that the presentation of his evidence must be confined to the evidence presented in rebuttal only.
Following the granting of the motion, the court has set the presentation of surrebuttal evidence of the accused on May 15, 16, 22 and 23, 2019, all at 9 a.m.
“The accused is hereby warned that should he fail to present evidence on the aforesaid dates, he shall be considered to have waived his right to present the same,” Reyes added in her order.
The court also held in abeyance the submission of the accused’ memorandum until after the termination of the presentation of surrebuttal evidence.
Records showed that the court is now only awaiting the camp of Ampatuan to submit his memorandum until which it will decide on the case.
The 91 co-accused of Ampatuan already submitted their respective memoranda.
Originally, 197 people were charged for the killing of at least 58 persons including 32 members of the media that took place on Nov. 23, 2009 in Maguindanao. Out of these number, 117 were arrested.
But of the 117 arrested accused, there were six, including Ampatuan matriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr., who have died while their cases were being tried in court.
Records also showed that the cases of four accused were dismissed after their demurrer to evidence were granted, two accused were dropped from the information while another turned into a state witness.
Other accused, including Andal’s Jr., nephew, Sajid Islam Ampatuan and 10 other police officers, are now out on bail after posting P11.6-million each surety bond.