Rape charge adds to Maguindanao tragedy
MANILA – Anger and relatives' cries for justice reverberated on Thursday at the resumption of the celebrated Maguindanao massacre trial as a medical legal officer testified that one of the victims may have been raped before she was shot to death at point blank range.
In his testimony, Chief Inspector Dean Caparas Cabrera, medico-legal officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, told the court that “there is definite evidence of sexual abuse or sexual contact” based on his autopsy of Rahima Palawan, one of the 57 civilians slaughtered by armed men in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines on the morning of Nov. 23, 2009.
Maguindanao is some 900 kilometers south of Manila.
Cabrera said that to determine the “occurrence of sexual abuse” three factors are considered: the presence of genital injuries, the existence of seminal fluid in the victim’s vaginal canal and corroborating statement from a witness or the victim herself.
“There is definite evidence of sexual abuse or contact on the victim,” Cabrera said.
During the autopsy semen samples were found on the genital area and on the underwear of Ms. Palawan.
Cabrera also said that the victim was “violently” killed by two or more suspects, citing the multiple entry points of the bullets that pierced her body.
The victim sustained four gunshot wounds, two of which were fatal.
Cabrera said he autopsied 12 of the victims (10 journalists and two civilians) at a funeral parlor in Koronadal, South Cotabato where the bodies were brought after they were dug from a mass grave.
The forensics officer said that chemical tests he conducted on vaginal swabs from the victim, as well on her underwear, indicated the presence of seminal fluid.
Relatives of the Maguindanao massacre who attended the trial cried as they continued to press for justice for the departed loved ones.
The victims were traveling in a convoy when roughly 200 gunmen stopped the vehicles and mercilessly shot the victims, allegedly on orders of the powerful Ampatuan clan.
During the trial at the heavily guarded Camp Bagong Diwa in suburban Taguig City, defense lawyers led by Sigfrid Fortun objected to the use of a projector to aid Cabrera’s testimony, explaining that they were not furnished copies of the presentation.
Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes sustained the objection.
In his testimony last week, Cabrera told the court the first victim he autopsied was that of journalist Francisco Subang who sustained 12 gunshot wounds and six other injuries on the victim’s body.
Of the 57 massacre victims, 32 were journalists, making it the most heinous crime in the Philippines’ political history.