The murderous Ampatuans must be enjoying the spectacle of the prosecutors in the Maguindanao massacre destroying each other.
Atty. Nena Santos, representing 25 of the of the 58 who were killed in a massacre in a secluded hill in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009, has alleged that government and fellow private prosecutor Harry Roque, of having been bribed by the Ampatuans to lose the case.
Santos represents Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, husband of victim Genalyn Mangudadatu and political rival of the Ampatuan family.
It will be recalled that Genalyn, accompanied by family members, political associates and members of media were abducted while on their way to file the candidacy of Mangudadatu for governor against Andal Ampatuan Jr, son of the then incumbent, Andal Ampatuan Sr. They were brought to a secluded hill and killed by Andal Jr and his henchmen. Of the 58 killed, 34 were media workers, earning for the Philippines the reputation of one of the most dangerous places for journalists.
A total of 194 persons are accused led by Andal Ampatuan Sr.; Andar, Jr.; former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan. The court has approved the “the first in, first out” policy to speed up the hearings, which former Sen. Joker Arroyo could take 200 years.
Last March, government prosecutors rested their case and it was expected that the defense would now start presenting their evidence.
Santos and two other private lawyers, Maria Gemma J. Oquendo and Prima Quinsayas, opposed the government prosecutors’ move which was supported by Roque.
Now comes the report of ABS-CBN, quoting Santos and an unnamed source, of multimillion peso bribe to government prosecutors and Roque.
The basis of ABS-CBN’s report was an unnamed source who has a notebook allegedly containing a list of bribes given by Ampatuans. The list included a cell phone number (which turned out to be Roque’s) followed by the words "speedy," the P10 M plus car.
That was all. No other document that proves Roque accepted the P10 million and the car.
Disclosure:Harry Roque was my counsel in my libel case filed by Mike Arroyo in 2003 and in the case we filed against officials of Gloria Arroyo involved in our arrest after the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege. Also, The Roque and Butuyan Law Office is the lawyer of VERA Files, where I am one of the trustees.
Needless to say, I don’t believe the allegations of bribery against Roque.
But let Roque’s associate, Joel Butuyan, give a brief on what they have done on the Ampatuan case which makes the bribery allegations preposterous.
1. A few days after the Ampatuan massacre, Harry Roque personally led an independent investigation in the very scene of the massacre in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, bringing with him three of his lawyers, and engaging the services of a South American forensic expert, and a British investigator. The Roque-led group of six joined then CHR Chair Leila De Lima. As a result of this independent investigation made after the police had completed theirs, the dentures of the 58th victim – Reynaldo Momay – were found even if his body has never been recovered to this day. Roque subsequently caused the filing of the 58th charge of murder against the Ampatuans, a move opposed even by Private Prosecutor Nena Santos.
2. Roque represents the heirs of the 15 victims in the massacre trial, and he has rushed to complete — as in fact he has months ago completed — the presentation of the full testimonies of all the family representatives of the 15 victims. The testimonies of Roque’s 15 clients pointing accusatory fingers at the Ampatuans can no longer be taken back because they are now part of the case records.
3. While the murder trial was on going, Roque found out that the 62 policemen charged for assisting the Ampatuans in committing the massacre had not been suspended from their positions and were still presumably enjoying the perks of their ranks and offices even if they were already charged in the murder trial. Appalled, Roque initiated the filing of administrative cases against these 62 policemen in the NAPOLCOM to have them all dismissed from service. This was opposed even by Prosecutor Nena Santos. Roque caused the NAPOLCOM trial to be completed after 15 months, and the case now has been awaiting decision from the NAPOLCOM since July 2011.
4. It has been widely believed that the Ampatuans became drunk with power because they were pampered and were made to believe they were untouchable during the reign of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. After Gloria Arroyo stepped down from power, Roque caused the filing of a multi-million damage suit against Arroyo on behalf of the Ampatuan massacre victims.
5. Roque had long demanded that the Anti-Money Laundering Authority freeze the assets of the Ampatuans. When the AMLA refused to take action, Roque filed a criminal complaint against the AMLA officers. The AMLA eventually but belatedly moved to freeze the assets of the Ampatuans.
6. Roque had been very vocal in the media discussing the crimes committed by the Ampatuans. He has been speaking in the local and international media, and even in international conferences. As a result, the Ampatuans and their cohorts have filed at least four criminal cases for contempt and libel against Roque, and all these cases remain pending. Some of these cases were even filed in Maguindanao.
7. When Roque felt that the court cases against the Ampatuans were taking so long and were insufficient to address the liabilities of all those liable, he caused the filing of a complaint before the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Committee on Human Rights. Together with several of his clients, Roque went to Jakarta, Indonesia where he led a rally in front of the ASEAN IGCHR, joined by human rights organizations in Indonesia.
8. Roque felt that even the complaint he filed in the ASEAN Committee on Human Rights was not being given due consideration. Consequently, he caused the filing of a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) with respect to the Ampatuan massacre.
9. Roque believed that the massacre could have been prevented if the military officers in charge of the area had granted the request and pleas of the eventual victims for a military escort. Roque found out that an AFP Major General and a Colonel refused to provide security to the ill-fated convoy notwithstanding advance information of threats to the convoy. As a result, Roque filed a criminal case against the military officers for their dereliction of duty.
10. Private Prosecutor Nena Santos restrictively participates in the trial involving the 57 murder victims. There is even no recollection that she ever personally presented a single witness during the trial. In contrast, and in addition to his participation in the trial of the 57 murder victims, Roque has initiated, sued, and actively participates in more than 20 additional cases/proceedings involving the Ampatuan massacre. These additional cases cost the Ampatuans and/or their co-accused substantial lawyers expenses and expose them to additional liabilities.
11. Roque wanted live TV and radio coverage for the Ampatuan trial because, among others, he believes that the public is entitled to see the conduct, demeanor, and competence of the Presiding Judge, the Prosecutors, the Defense Counsels, the witnesses, the complainants, and the accused during the trials. Accordingly, he filed a Petition with the Supreme Court to allow live media coverage for the Ampatuan trial. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not favor live media coverage.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.