NBI given a month to probe bribery claims

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

By Virgil B. Lopez

THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has 30 days to submit a "confidential report" to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on its probe on allegations that public prosecutors in the Maguindanao massacre trial might be on the take.

De Lima said Thursday she wants to know the truth behind the accusations of private prosecutor Nena Santos, who proposed for a legislative inquiry instead as the NBI is under the DOJ’s control.

Santos earlier said the Ampatuan camp offered her P300 million but she refused, adding the money could have landed with the prosecution panel of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Later on, state witness Lakmodin Saliao disclosed that supervising Undersecretary Francisco Baraan got P20 million of the P50-million payoff for government lawyers to jeopardize the multiple murder cases against the Ampatuans, the main accused in the killing of 58 people on November 23, 2009.

Baraan challenged Santos to stop talking and just file a case against him before the Office of the Ombudsman, saying he is innocent of the accusation.

"Look at the way we handle the case, it has with full dedication and commitment, nagpupuyat ang mga yan preparing pleadings, witnesses, kung nabigyan sila ng pera, dapat di na sila gumagalaw, o kaya pinepresent nilang testigo ay mali," he said.

(Video by Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

Fellow private prosecutor Harry Roque said Santos should not make a big deal about Baraan as he "does not even take care of strategy."

"He is undersecretary in charge but as far as strategy is concerned, he doesn't even join us in strategy meetings. It is always the head of the panel who is in charge of the strategy meetings," he said.

Roque, lawyer for 15 victims of the massacre, also denied allegations that he accepted P10 million from the Ampatuans, calling it an "insult."

"I am worth at least P1 billion," he said in jest during a press conference.

He called on Santos and another private prosecutor Prima Jesusa Quinsayas to quit from the case since their statements on lack of sufficient evidence to obtain convictions tend to benefit the Ampatuans.

"In this fight to bring justice to the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre, we are up against somebody who has all the resources to do everything to derail the case and prevent the conviction of the Ampatuans. We will not be derailed," Roque said.

Meanwhile, de Lima ordered the DOJ Witness Protection Program (WPP) to review Saliao's status after he gave media interviews without asking for permission from the WPP.

Baraan was more certain as the WPP is allegedly considering withdrawing state protection for Saliao, a former helper of accused former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. (Sunnex)

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