Just over three months before the 5th anniversary of the gruesome murders in the southern Philippines that shocked the global press, the government and private prosecutors have locked horns over how the government has handled the case against the suspects.
On Friday last week, lawyer Nena Santos accused some government prosecutors of receiving bribes from the Ampatuan family in exchange for dropping charges against the suspects.
Santos, representing some of the families of the victims, also questioned the manner in which government prosecutors rested their case against the Ampatuans.
Santos wants government prosecutors to wait until hearings of the petitions for bail by the accused are resolved before resting their case to allow the filing of new evidences.
Once the prosecution rests its case, it can no longer present any evidence.
But Department of Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, told rappler.com that they are just taking advantage of the new guidelines from the Supreme Court.
Baraan said the new Supreme Court guidelines separate trials for other cases filed against the suspects.
The Ampatuans, which included former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, sons Zaldy, Andal Jr, Sajib and Anwar and son-in-law Kanor, were tagged as the masterminds behind the November 23, 2009 killings that included 32 journalists and media workers, and the wife and two sisters of now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu.
The Ampatuans and Mangudadatus were former allies who turned bitter political rivals.
A total of 58 were killed in a massacre that shocked the world.
Some 191 suspects were charged, but only 101 so far are in government custody.
On Monday, one of the government witnesses in the massacre case claimed in an interview that that a P50m (US$1.14m) “payment was made to compromise the case.”
Lakmodin Saliao, a former member the Ampatuans’ house help, claimed he delivered money to an unidentified Ampatuan lawyer whom to bribe government prosecutors.
He claimed P20m went directly to Baraan.
Saliao entered the witness protection program after he was told that his life was in danger for knowing too much.
Baraan, however, described the allegations as “wild imaginations”.
He dared Santos to file a case against him if the private lawyer of the victims has evidence.