MANILA - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima defended the integrity of state prosecutors handling the Maguindanao massacre cases from allegations that they have been bribed to compromise the trials.
De Lima challenged Atty. Nena Santos, her former classmate at the San Beda Law School, to produce evidence to substantiate her claim that some P300 million allegedly offered to Santos by the Ampatuans may have gone to the prosecutors.
This is after Santos supposedly declined the offer.
"That's not fair, and, in fact, I talked to the public prosecutors last week, they're up in arms... Yung sinasabi kasi na hindi daw tinanggap yung P300 million, napunta daw sa public prosecutors. Is that a fair supposition? Is that a fair statement na nag-offer allegedly yung Ampatuan clan kay Atty Nena and allegedly dinecline, nireject ergo napunta yung pera sa public prosecutors?" De Lima asked.
"That is simply preposterous na ganyan ang conclusion agad. Napakalaki naman ng jump ng conclusion na yan in the absence of a clearer evidence."
De Lima is mulling to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate Santos' claim that there was an attempt to bribe her.
However, the justice chief sees no reason, for now, to investigate Santos' allegation that the DOJ prosecutors received bribe money from the Ampatuans.
"At this point, I'm inclined na ipaimbestiga yung sinasabi ni Atty Nena na inofferan siya ng P300 million from the Ampatuan clan kasi yun sinasabi niya na nag-offer sa kanya. Yun na muna ipapaimbestiga ko. Now, kung meron din lumabas dyan na more or less ebidensya na pointing to alleged bribery naman to public prosecutors, paiimbestigahan ko rin yan."
"Pero at this point, I'm not inclined to do that kasi wala naman ako nakikitang batayan except for that na simply because the P300 million alleged bribe offered to Atty Nena was rejected by her, napunta sa public prosecutors," De Lima said.
The justice chief also slammed Santos' pronouncement that she (Santos) will wait for the end of De Lima's term before naming the alleged prosecutors who have been bribed by the Ampatuans.
"Kung talagang may ebidensya siya, why, should she wait for my exit here from the DOJ di ba? Kung talagang may ebidensya, go ahead, kung talagang meron bakit hihintayin na mawala ako dito?" De Lima asked
DE LIMA BACKS DECISION TO REST CASE
De Lima lamented the allegations against the DOJ prosecutors, saying the reason may be the difference in opinion between them and Santos regarding the DOJ's move to rest the case and presentation of evidence against 28 accused, including former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., one of the principal accused.
"Just because hindi sila nagkaintindhan dun sa plano na mag-rest na dapat yung prosecution insofar as Datu Unsay and several other accused are concerend -- kasi sabi ng public prosecutors we can already rest para mapabilis na so that we can already have a partial judgment because, precisely, the Supreme Court authorized already the trial court to undertake separate trials, in other words, kung meron nang pwedeng madesisyunan, desisyunan na kaysa hihintayin lahat."
"So we are taking advantage of that, and according to the public prosecutors we have more than sufficient evidence already to achieve conviction. And, remember, criminal prosecution is always under the control and supervision of the public prosecutors. It' the primary responsiblity of the public prosecutors kahit may mga private prosecutors," De Lima said.
Last week, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, the undersecretary-in-charge of the Maguindanao massacre trials, also lashed out at Santos.
Baraan said the state prosecutors are mulling the filing of a disbarment case against Santos.
"How do you solve a problem like Nena Santos? What is her agenda? Where is she coming from? Ang aming (DOJ) agenda isa lang - ang itoy mapabilis at manalo at makuha ang hustisya para sa ating mga kababayan at mga family ng mga victims," Baraan said.