DOJ: No bribery in Maguindanao massacre case

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Friday, August 1, 2014

THE Department of Justice (DOJ) challenged a lawyer in the Maguindanao massacre case on Friday to back up claims that public prosecutors have received bribes to jeopardize the government's fight against those involved in the grisly killings.

Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, the official in charge of the cases, said private prosecutor Nena Santos is lying.

"If she has evidence then show them now so that we can clean up the panel," he told reporters.

Santos, lawyer of 25 complainants including Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, stood by her statement, saying she is ready to face disbarment proceedings.

"I will not go in public if I don't have proof. Since they said they will file a disbarment case against me, I will use the evidence in my possession to their complaint," she said in a text message to Sun.Star.

The DOJ will also not back down in its plan to rest its case against main accused Andal Ampatuan Jr. and 27 individuals before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court branch 221 despite Santos' claim that they were not consulted.

Baraan said Santos was present during the meeting on July 1 at the DOJ, where the public prosecutors adopted the legal strategy after the Supreme Court (SC) allowed the system of "first in first out" that gives the prosecution the option to rest its case against some of the 194 accused without waiting for the presentation of the evidence against all of the accused.

Santos said she has no intention to ask the DOJ to reconsider as the court had already stopped the state prosecutors' attempt thrice.

"If they still insist, we will file an administrative case against Usec. Baraan and the panel. The families of the massacre victims have right to get justice. Since the court already issued an order that their move is unprocedural, we will use this as ground for their adminstrative case," she said.

The DOJ panel has the final say on the multiple murder cases because the private prosecutors can only move for compensatory and moral damages.

"She can say what she wants, but she cannot insist what she wants us to do. She cannot be like a spoiled child and force us to follow her," Baraan said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima assured her support to the 12-man prosecution panel in a meeting on Friday morning.

Majority of the 58 victims were journalists, who were supposed to cover Mangudadatu's filing of certificate of candidacy on November 23, 2009. He was represented by his wife, who was also killed.

Since the trial started in early 2010, court proceedings remain snail-paced, raising doubts of attaining conviction before President Benigno Aquino III steps down in 2016. (Sunnex)

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