DOJ to cross-examine new Maguindanao massacre 'witness'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 24 2010 02:46 PM | Updated as of Jun 24 2010 10:46 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A senior prosecutor of the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday that they will have to validate and cross-examine the testimonies of a supposed new witness, who is claiming he has inside information on the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao province last year.

"Tuwing lalabas ang isang bagong testigo, hindi agad-agad susunggaban ito at gagamitin natin. Ang pagdedesisyon ho niyan ay matapos ang masusing validation to determine kung totoo ba ang sinasabi nitong testigo na ito at kung ano motibo niya sa paglalahad," Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon said in a radio dzMM interview.

(Everytime a new witness comes out, we cannot immediately take him in and use him. We decide after validation to determine if he is telling the truth and his motives)

Fadullon said he has ordered the panel prosecuting the Maguindanao massacre case to validate the testimonies of Lakmodin "Laks" Saliao, who claims he was a trusted assistant of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.

In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN's Jorge Cariño, Saliao claimed that he was present in in meetings held at the house of Ampatuan Sr., where the clan leaders plotted the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre.

He said he was at the side of Ampatuan Sr. during the day of the massacre and overheard the former governor's radio conversation with his son and namesake Ampatuan Jr.

Fadullon said that after watching Saliao from ABS-CBN's news program, he made calls to other prosecutors handling the massacre case.

He said they would have to personally interview Saliao and subject him to a very thorough validation "if his information is really accurate and if it jives with the evidence here with us."

Fadullon, however, said the prosecutors would have to take into consideration the long gap of the time Saliao surfaced.

"It's been seven months since the time the massacre happened and here comes this witness," he said. He said caution was necessary since Saliao could have surfaced to try to bungle the prosecution's case.

But Fadullon said that they could not just dismiss Saliao despite the danger of taking him as witness. He said that it was the first time that a real inside man has expressed willingness to stand witness against the members of the powerful political clan.

"This is the first time that someone from the inside is coming out and telling us what he knows. This is important because this is inside information from somebody who knows what went on during that particular time," the prosecutor said.