Defense lawyer says illness could have triggered death of some Ampatuan victims

Can you imagine having so many deaths all in one place? Even if these victims had pre-existing illness, how could they possibly die all at once?

Other causes, such as illness, could have triggered the death of some of the victims in the gruesome Ampatuan massacre in 2009, a defense lawyer said on Thursday.

Defense lawyer Andres Manuel raised this argument while cross examining prosecution expert witness Chief Inspector Dean Cabrera of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory.

In his series of testimonies since December last year, Cabrera, a medico-legal expert who autopsied the bodies of 12 of the 57 massacre victims, had repeatedly said the victims suffered fatal gunshot wounds all over their bodies that could have caused their deaths.

However, Manuel, on Thursday, asked Cabrera if the latter was aware if the victims he autopsied were suffering from illnesses before their death.

Cabrera said he learned from the relatives that some of the victims were suffering from illnesess but could not exactly remember what they were.

Asked during a break in the hearing what he was trying to drive at, Manuel told reporters that health problems like cardiac arrest, seizure, or even epilepsy could have been triggered shortly before they were shot, while they were being rounded up on a hilly portion of Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

“In that kind of situation, these illnesses could have been triggered and could have been the cause of death,” Manuel said.

But private prosecutor Harry Roque, who represents families of some of the slain journalists, described Manuel’s insinuations as “ridiculous.”

“Each of the victims sustained at least nine gunshot wounds. How else could you explain those contusions (on their bodies). They could not have inflicted them upon themselves,” Roque said.

Manuel also doubted indications pointed out by Cabrera that three of the victims he examined could have been sexually abused prior to their deaths, as evidenced by the seminal fluid found in their genitals.

The lawyer suggested the possibility that the “sexual abuse” could have happened “post mortem” of after the victims’ death and done by someone “who probably had necrophilia.”

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