DOJ slams alleged P50M payoff in massacre case

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

GOVERNMENT lawyers in the Maguindanao massacre trial condemned Tuesday allegations of a former Ampatuan employee that they received P50 million to ensure the clan's freedom from multiple murder cases.

In a statement, the Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors said Lakmodin Saliao, a helper of accused ex-Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., was not telling the truth.

Saliao, in an interview with a radio station on Monday, alleged that at the time he was with the Ampatuans, he was tasked to deliver money to Ampatuan lawyer Arnel Manaloto for the purpose of bribing the public prosecutors and Baraan.

Saliao, who turned state witness, said at least P20 million went to Baraan to bribe the panel and junk the cases.

But the panel said this is impossible since Baraan only assumed his post in the DOJ on August 16, 2010 and was designated supervising undersecretary of the cases on November 22, 2010.

The present panel of prosecutors, the third since the trial started in January 2010, was formed on March 9, 2011.
Saliao escaped from the Ampatuans on May 8, 2010 or during the waning days of the Arroyo administration.

(Video by Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

He was admitted into the DOJ Witness Protection Program (WPP) on July 15, 2010.

"Clearly, when Saliao was still with the Ampatuans and before he turned against them in May 2010, Undersecretary Baraan was not yet in government and the present panel was not yet constituted," the panel said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima expressed confidence in the panel, adding they are doing their job to bring justice to the 58 victims, including 32 press members, of the November 23, 2009 massacre.

"I don't see any reason to doubt the present panel's handling of the cases," she told reporters. "If they were compromised, they should have mishandled or even destroyed the cases. But no, the panel presented the right evidence and opted to rest the cases so that they can attain conviction."

De Lima said she will also order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe private lawyer Nena Santos' claim that the Ampatuans offered her P300 million and that the public prosecutors got payoffs to overturn the cases.

Santos and fellow private lawyer Prima Quinsayas earlier claimed there was a rift between the DOJ panel and private prosecutors, especially after the government decided to rest its case against main accused Andal Ampatuan Jr. and 27 others.

Santos then accused the panel of receiving bribes from the Ampatuans.

The public prosecutors will soon file a disbarment case against Santos for her allegedly malicious claims against them.

For his part, lawyer Harry Roque said the "unsubstantiated allegations" of bribery serve no other purpose than to derail the prosecution of the cases.

Roque, counsel for relatives of 15 victims, asked Santos and Quinsayas to go to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and other judicial bodies, where they should present "real, concrete and substantiated evidence. (Sunnex)

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