November 23 massacre update: Autopsy shows perpetrators’ intent to kill

A MEDICO-LEGAL officer of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) testified in court that the perpetrators did intend to kill the victims in the southern Philippines’ November 23 massacre as the defense lawyer tried to destroy the witness’ credibility by questioning his expertise.

During the fifth bail hearing last 04 February 2010 in Manila, Dr. Ricardo Rodaje said the autopsy he conducted on the body of Genalin Mangudadatu, one of the victims, showed there was cruelty and treachery in the manner she was killed judging from her gunshot wounds  and the trajectory  of the bullets.

Genalin was the wife of Esmael Mangudadatu, who has accused Andal Ampatuan Jr. of masterminding the massacre of November 23 in which 57 persons including 31 journalists and media workers were killed.. Andal Jr. is under detention and is on trial for multiple murder. The families of Esmael and Andal Jr. are political rivals in Maguindanao.

Genalin suffered 17 gunshot wounds, 16 of them fatal,  Rodaje said. Based on the bullet wounds, he explained that she was shot “no more than 24 inches away” with high-powered firearms.

Although there was no sign that the victim was sexually assaulted, Rodaje said she suffered three wounds near the genital area, her groin, and under her navel. From the appearance of the lesions, the doctor said the  wounds were inflicted on Genalin when she was still alive.

“It is evident that the victim died cruelly, brutally and treacherously,” Rodaje said. “She suffered a most painful death.”

The prosecution also showed autopsy photos of Genalin using a widescreen projector during the trial. Prior to doing so, private prosecutor Prima Jesusa Quinsayas sought through the presiding judge permission from Esmael who gave his consent.  Even so, Esmael left the hearing teary-eyed as the photos were shown.

Before Rodaje testified, the prosecution and defence both agreed to dispense with the presence of Andal Jr. Andal was present however when Esmael took the stand before Rodaje.

In the cross examination, defence lawyer Sigfrid Fortun argued that “in light of their number,” the NBI doctor “made a generalization that all these wounds lumped together are fatal.”

Fortun also concluded that Rodaje based his findings in the autopsy report on “memory” since Rodaje could not cite any medical book or its author as basis for his observation.

Rodaje, who has been an NBI medico-legal officer for 17 years, testified to prove that he conducted the autopsy and to establish the cause of death of Genalin.

Cross-examination

Fortun also refuted the credibility of Esmael, who maintained that what he said in  two previous affidavits were “true”.

The defence lawyer cited court records allegedly proving that Esmael was charged for murder in 2001 as well as multiple attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms in connection with a grenade explosion incident on 19 June 2009.

Senior state prosecutor Leo Dacera objected and said: No evidence of good character was presented (in favor of Esmael), so you cannot give evidence of bad character (as well).

Fortun replied that the rule only applied to the accused and not to witnesses. Esmael nevertheless answered by saying the charges were all made-up.

Arraignment

Before the bail hearing, the prosecution and defence agreed to have the arraignment of Andal Jr. for the 15 murder cases that were transferred from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 15 of Cotabato City to RTC Branch 221 of Quezon City.

Andal Jr. pleaded “not guilty” before presiding judge  Jocelyn Solis-Reyes. There are now 56 cases where Andal Jr. is the accused together with several John Does. The 57th case, which was expected to be filed by the end of last January, has not yet been filed.

The next bail hearing will be on 10 February 2009. Prosecution will be presenting three witnesses, including Rodaje. A bail hearing is a judicial criminal proceeding held to determine if evidence of guilt is strong. If evidence is otherwise, the person accused of a criminal offense may be granted bail.

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