Agra says Roque at fault for not respecting authority of public prosecutors

June 24, 2010 9:56 pm 

MANILA, June 24 — Acting Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary and concurrent Solicitor General Alberto Agra on Wednesday said that Harry Roque is the one at fault.

"He (Roque) never respected the authority of the public prosecutors," Agra said.

"The public prosecutors have control over private prosecutors not the other way around," Agra said.

"He (Roque) never brought 'Jessi' for interview and evaluation before the prosecutors," Agra said.

"How can that person (Jessi) be placed under the witness protection program. Roque even represents the victims and one of the killers," Agra said.

Roque earlier said that their strongest witness in the Maguindanao massacre, alias 'Jessi', has been killed.

Roque added that the motive of the killing has not been determined.

However, Roque said, they suspect that the killing of the witness has something to do with his testimony on the Maguindanao massacre case.

On the other hand, a human rights group on Wednesday scored the DOJ for its alleged failure to immediately act on the request of a witness to the massacre that he be given government protection.

Elaine Pearson, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, said that said witness Suwaib Upham who was killed last June 14 in Parang, Maguindanao was requesting that he be admitted to the government's Witness Protection Program (WPP) for over three months.

"Yet, the department was still considering his request for protection at the time of his killing," Pearson said.

On April 22, 2010, Pearson said that Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, called on Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to take action to protect Upham.

The appeal came after Upham informed them that there was a bounty on his head.

"Suwaib Upham took enormous personal risks by agreeing to testify against Ampatuan family members, yet the government, knowing full well he was in danger, did nothing. This sends the worst possible message to other witnesses thinking of coming forward."

Upham had been a militia member for the Ampatuans, Maguindanaos most powerful ruling family.

Upham came out of hiding in February and offered to testify about the massacre through one of the private prosecutors in the Ampatuan trial.

In exchange for his testimony, he sought protection.

Upham knew the inner workings of the Ampatuans militia, their sources of weapons and the command structure of the police, military and paramilitary forces in Maguindanao.

He also knew details of past abuses perpetrated by the Ampatuans and their private army.

Pearson said that Upham could have been a key witness to the massacre in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.

Upham, Pearson said, is one of those who stopped a convoy that was en route to file Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy for governor for the May 10, 2010 elections.

The gunmen summarily executed 57 civilians, including Mangudadatu family members and supporters, bystanders and more than 31 members of the media and their support staff.

Those charged with the killings were members of the Ampatuan family, together with certain police, military and paramilitary personnel.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., then mayor of the town of Datu Unsay and the son of former Maguindanao governor, Andal Ampatuan, Sr., is the lead suspect in the case.

He was charged with multiple counts of murder on Dec. 1, 2009, and is in custody while his bail hearing continues. (PNA)

DCT/PTR

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