Victims’ families support opposition to resting in ‘evidence-in-chief’, call for investigation on bribery claims
Posted by CMFR | Posted in Case Updates | Posted on 08-08-2014
CMFR/Philippines – The families of some victims of the Ampatuan (Maguindanao) Massacre held a press conference on 6 August 2013 to express their support for the opposition to rest in “evidence-in-chief” and to call for an investigation on bribery allegations.
The following day, private prosecutor Harry Roque and Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III denied that they were bribed to fix the case.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu expressed his confidence in Atty. Nena Santos, his lawyer and assigned private prosecutor in the massacre trial, and called for the removal of Baraan as supervising undersecretary of the state prosecution panel because of Baraan’s admission that he had a meeting with defense lawyer Philip Sigfrid Fortun.
“I have trust in my lawyer, Nena Santos, and in Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, but not in Usec. Baraan,” Mangudadatu said. “Maybe there are other undersecretaries who can handle the case.”
Mangudadatu’s wife, sisters and cousins were killed in the massacre.
Baraan earlier said in TV news reports that the Ampatuan Massacre trial was not discussed in his meeting with Fortun. But Mangudadatu argued that Baraan could have easily refused meeting with Fortun.
Oquendo also lamented how Fortun can have meetings Baraan but the victims’ families are ignored when they requested for meetings.
“(Baraan) can’t say that we are only after the civil aspect of the case. We are the victims. We are not only after money. We are after justice,” Oquendo said.
The victims’ families also called for an investigation on the allegation that state prosecutors had already been bribed to fix the trial.
In an interview on 31 July 2014 in the late night news program Bandila, Santos said she can identify members of the state prosecution who have been bribed, but will file an official complaint “in due time.”
The following day, Baraan and the state prosecutors held a press conference to deny the allegation and dared Santos to substantiate her claim.
On 7 August 2014, Roque also went public to deny he has ever received nor been offered bribes from the accused.
A news report in Bandila on 6 August said that in a notebook shown by an anonymous informant, the nickname “Speedy” appeared twice; first with Roque’s cell phone number, second with the date “July 2012”, the amount PHP 10 million (some USD 220,000) and the phrase “plus car”.
“This current scandal has the sole purpose of destroying the prosecution and derailing the conviction of the Ampatuans,” Roque said. “I ask . . . all the proper authorities to resolve these accusations.”
Baraan, in a separate press briefing on 7 August, reiterated his denial after also being named in the notebook.
Earlier, Justice Secretary de Lima had already tasked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate all the bribery allegations.
Do not rest in ‘evidence-in-chief’
In the press conference, Ma. Gemma Oquendo, private complainant and prosecutor in the trial, defended her opposition to rest in “evidence-in-chief.”
“What harm would I want to do to our case? I lost a father and a sister to this massacre,” the lawyer said.
Oquendo and two other private prosecutors, Nena Santos and Prima Quinsayas, earlier publicized their opposition the state prosecutors’ intent to rest in “evidence-in-chief” before the defense has yet to present their rebuttal in the bail petition hearings.
They argued that resting in “evidence-in-chief” before the resolution of the bail petitions will prevent the prosecution from presenting stronger evidence should the court grant bail.
However, Roque who represents families of 15 massacre victims sided with the state prosecutors saying the move is in abeyance of his “first in, first out” proposal which “was denied by the Trial Court but later provided by the Supreme Court in its guidelines.”
In December 2013, the Supreme Court released five guidelines to help speed up the trial. One of them was to allow the presiding judge to hold “to hold, based on her discretion, separate trials of the accused against whom the prosecution contemplates no further evidence.” The guidelines do not involve the “first in, first out” concept.
Through the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists Inc. (FFFJ), Quinsayas represents the families of 17 massacre victims in the trial. CMFR serves as FFFJ’s technical and administrative secretariat.