Palace taking ‘seriously’ what Zaldy knows

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Jul 13 2011 05:53 PM | Updated as of Jul 14 2011 07:05 AM

Lacierda chastises victims’ lawyer for 'malicious' claims

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Malacanang said on Wednesday that President Benigno Aquino III has in his heart the welfare of the families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, but is taking “seriously” the revelations of one of the primary suspects.

In a press conference, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan has more information to offer besides what he already earlier revealed.

He said these include massive poll fraud, including information about the “Hello, Garci” scandal.

Lacierda reiterated Ampatuan did not ask for anything more, except for protection from the government from the threats he will allegedly be receiving for cutting his ties with the Ampatuan clan.

“The issues go beyond the Maguindanao massacre, that’s the reason why we have to be prudent,” he said.

He stressed “there is no formal request [from Zaldy] to become state witness. We are just assessing the information he is providing.”

Asked if Zaldy could later squeeze a deal in exchange for something bigger, Lacierda said: “Again, there is no formal request other than that.”

Task force

This is precisely the reason why the President created a task force to assess the probative value of the revelations of Zaldy, he said.

He said there are valid concerns from journalist groups and from the families themselves that the Ampatuans have a ploy in the person of Zaldy.

“That is why we’re assessing what he’s proffering. Malalaman din yan kung kuryente," he said.

He refused to give a clue as to who the members of the task force are, no less their positions.

‘Roque, a polluted source’

He dismissed allegations, specifically from lawyer Harry Roque, claiming that the Ampatuans are now in the good graces of Malacañang.

He called the allegations of Roque “a figment of his imagination,” which is malicious and irresponsible. He also called Roque, “kulang sa pansin" (lacks attention).

There are also fears that the administration will use Zaldy to pin former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the massive poll fraud in Mindanao.

After tagging his brother and father to the murders, Ampatuan also tagged the Arroyos to electoral fraud in 2007 to make Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri win.

Roque also allegedly said Lacierda, Communications Secretary Ramon Carandang, and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo brokered a deal with Zaldy.

“It’s so unfair of Harry Roque to politicize such a tragic incident…He should apologize to [us],” Lacierda said.

He told the victims’ kin: “You’ve met me. You’ve met the President. We are committed to you. Kasama namin kayo.”

He said Aquino will meet with the families tomorrow to pacify their fears.