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Prove P300M bribe claim, DOJ official tells lawyer Nena Santos
MANILA - Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III on Friday night dared lawyer Nena Santos to prove her allegations that some prosecutors in the Ampatuan massacre trial have been bribed to damage the cases.
Baraan, the Department of Justice (DOJ) official in charge of the massacre cases, told ABS-CBN's "Bandila" that he has no idea about Santos' claim.
"Wala po akong alam diyan sa sinasabi ni Nena," he said. "I think this should be investigated. Dapat si Nena mismo ang nagpa-investigate niyan eh, unang-una kung may nasuhulan meron bang ibedensya? Obligasyon iyan na dapat iyan ma-investigate, kung meron siyang ibedensya. I think she should go to the NBI or to any investigating (agency) of the government para iyan ay malaman ang katotohanan."
Santos, one of the private lawyers of families of 27 victims in the killings, earlier broke her silence on the rift between the private and government prosecutors in the massacre case..
In an interview Thursday night also on Bandila, Santos hinted that "many" state prosecutors are receiving bribes from the accused in the case.
Santos said the rift began two years ago when they were no longer consulted on the case.
The change in attitude by the government panel coincided with two attempts to allegedly bribe her by the Ampatuan camp, through an emissary.
A second attempt was allegedly made in 2012, as attested to by a witness who mentioned that an offer of P300 million was made for Santos to drop the case.
Santos said she has evidence to prove her allegations, but added that it is not yet time to disclose these.
Baraan, however, said Santos' statements against the public prosecutors are "lies."
He said Santos, a classmate of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima at San Beda Law School, is acting like a "spoiled child" who always wants to have her way in the Maguindanao massacre trials.
Baraan also said Santos can bring her proof to De Lima. "Importante sa amin na malaman natin iyan so we can cleanse the ranks of the prosecution team kung totoo po iyan. This is a very serious allegation po."
"Dapat pina-blotter niya iyan, o kaya pina-deretso nya para in-entrap kung sino man ang nanunuhol sa kanya. Kasi madaling sabihin na siya ay sinuhuilan ng P300 million. Kailan ba nngyari iyan? Kasi we're the one presenting the witnesses, so sabi niya siya ang tinangkang suhulan, para ano?" he asked.
"Kahit pa talikuran niya ang kaso, nandyan kami eh. We are the public prosecutors, siya naman po eh she's not part naman ng public prosecutors' team. She's the private prosecutor representing the private interest of some private complainants," Baraan said.
Baraan, however, promised to have the bribery allegations investigated. "We will demand from her to produce the evidence."
"Sabi niya, meron siyang ebidensya then she should produce the evidence. Sabi niya she will wait for the expiry of the term of the secretary, dapat ngayon na. She should not wait for that."
He warned that Santos can be disbarred for lying.
"It's a very very serious allegation. It's very irresponsible. Kung wala siyang ebidensya, kung meron dapat ilabas niya. Otherwise, they (prosecutors) will take action against her," he said. "She can be disbarred for that."
"Gusto ko lang linawin na she's just one of the private prosecutors," Baraan said. "Si Harry Roque came out with the statement kahapon, sabi niya there's no conflict between private prosecutors and the public prosecutors. Ang conflict is between Nena Santos and everyone else."
"Talk is cheap," he said. "Importante na you have something to back up what you're saying, lalo na't iyan eh nakakasirang puri."
Baraan also denied that a state prosecutor has been sacked for accepting bribes.
He said one prosecutor was not fired but resigned because of "issues raised against him."
WORST IN HISTORY
The massacre is the worst election-related violent incident in the Philippines' history. It is also considered as the world's single deadliest event for journalists.
Leaders of the Ampatuan family and their gunmen are accused of killing 58 people, including 32 journalists, in the southern province of Maguindanao on November 23, 2009 in a bid to quash a rival's challenge to become governor.
Andal Ampatuan Sr., who was the governor of the province at the time of the massacre, is on trial for the killings.
Aside from Ampatuan, 5 of his sons and 2 of his grandsons are also on trial.
A total of 197 people were originally named as accused, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR).
The CMFR, citing court records, said 111 suspects in the massacre have been arrested since 2009, of whom 104 have been arraigned.
The trials are expected to take years to complete and victims' relatives, as well as rights groups, fear the Ampatuans are using the time to sabotage the case by killing or intimidating witnesses.
At least three witnesses and 3 other potential witnesses have been killed since 2010, according to police.
The Ampatuans deny all charges against them. - with reports from Ces Orena Drilon and Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News; ANC; Reuters