• Ampatuan hearings to resume next year

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    The Quezon City Regional Trial Court reset the hearings on the 2009 Maguindanao massacre next year after the legal counsel of Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr., withdrew his appearance from the case.

    Lawyer Salvador S. Panelo filed his withdrawal of appearance before Quezon City RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes during the bail petition hearing of Ampatuan Jr. last December 3.

    Panelo has requested that Ampatuan Jr. be given five weeks deducted from the original period within which to present his rebuttal evidence, but opposed by Prosecutor Amor Robles.

    Before the court issued its ruling however, Panelo, withdrew his appearance.

    Panelo’s withdraw from the case came two weeks prior to the expiration period given to
    Ampatuan Jr., to terminate the presentation of rebuttal of evidence.

    The court said it is clear that the accused was given opportunity to present and terminate his rebuttal evidence.

    First, the court gave him the chance to present his evidence in February 2015 instead of December 2014. Second, the period to terminate the presentation of rebuttal evidence was also extended from October to December 17, 2015.

    “While it may be true that the withdrawal of counsel for a party is not subject to the Court’s approval, nevertheless, it is of the view that it can direct the counsel to defer its effectivity especially when the period given to the counsel within which to terminate the presentation of rebuttal evidence is about to expire in two weeks, as in these cases,” the order stated.

    “Given however, the peculiar circumstances wherein it is the accused himself who refused to be assisted by his counsel, and insisted that he would like to be presented for re-direct examination by a new counsel, notwithstanding the explanation made by the Court that such act on his part will further delay appropriate action on his applications for bail, and notwithstanding further, the initial directive of the Court for Atty. Panelo to present the accused for the continuation of his re-direct examination, the Court is constrained to take positive action on the Withdrawal of Appearance filed by said counsel to avoid technicalities,” the order added.

    Ampatuan Jr. was given three weeks to secure the services of his own counsel who will present him for his re-direct examination and his proposed witnesses whom Panelo failed to present.

    Meanwhile, the court set Ampatuan Jr.’s presentation of rebuttal evidence on January 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21, 2016 at Quezon City Jail-Annex, Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City.

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