MANILA, Philippines - Kin of 32 journalists who were killed in the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre have alleged that intermediaries of the Ampatuan family -- the principal suspects in the murders -- have approached each family with a P25-million offer.
Grace Morales, who lost her husband Rossell and sister Marites Cablitas, said the offers increased as the arraignment of 92 suspects moved at a snail's pace.
"Nilapitan ang kamag-anak ko... Lahat nilapitan," she said. "Tumataas, P25 million na last month."
Morales said the emissaries offered to finalize arrangements in return for a P5-million cut from each family.
Morales and Reynafe Momay, daughter of photojournalist Reynaldo, whose remains yet have to be found, thanked media groups that have taken in many children as scholars.
However, they said some families are in dire straits, especially those who lost parents and are now in the care of grandparents.
"May ibang families na di mo masabing okay... lalo na sa mga wala nang ina at ama na ang tanging tumitingin ay mga lola," Morales said. "Nakikita ko ang situation nila, lalo na sa mga bata."
"Nasa lola sila, minsan tutong na lang ang kinakain," said Momay.
Morales and Momay, however, vowed that heirs of the massacre victims will fight it out to the bitter end.
"Kailanman di mababayaran ang buhay na kinuha sa amin," Morales said. "Kahit magkabutas-butas ang bulsa nila, hindi makukuha ang sakit… habang may buhay kami, mararamdaman namin ang sakit."
"Ang compensation kasama sa hustisya, pero kung unahin niyo yan…. Hintayin na may hustisya, magkakaroon ng kompensasyon," said Momay.
'Trial could be finished in 2 years'
Meanwhile, state prosecutor Nestor Lazaro stressed the prosecution's strong evidence and witnesses, including men who personally were on the scene of the crime, from the putting up of checkpoints to the actual killing.
He also allayed fears that the massacre trial proper could drag on for as many as 10 to 15 years. He estimates that the trial could wrap up after 2 years.
"May 300 witnesses pero hindi naman kailangan maharap lahat. We are not bound to present all these witnesses," Lazaro said. "Intent to kill, evident premeditation …. Planning, shooting, cover-up, may witness."
The problem is, no one knows when the trial will start since the defense counsels have been filing motions left and right to delay proceedings and bar the most important witnesses, Lazaro said.
Of 93 detained accused, only 64 have been arraigned.
"Ginugulo nila ang kaso. Filed 4 cases against 4 witnesses to prevent from testifying," Lazaro said. "Manila RTC to stop QC RTC … we raised it to the Supreme Court for forum shopping,"
He added that the defense is doing everything to delay the case.
Lazaro said defense lawyers are filing cases left and right not only against the prosecutors but also the witnesses.
He said the first prosecution witness who will take the stand is a civilian volunteer who went to police to tell them what he knew about the massacre.
The witness' statement was recorded in the police blotter. Lazaro described the witness as "very credible."