MANILA - A private prosecutor in the Maguindanao massacre trial believes other lawyers who accuse government prosecutors of taking bribes should bring the matter to the Ombudsman or the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
Speaking to ANC, lawyer Harry Roque said the bribery allegations of Attorneys Nena Santos and Prima Quinsayas should be substantiated and brought to the proper forum.
"If there is bribery of a public official, she should file before the Ombudsman. She can also file the appropriate complaint before the Supreme Court or the Integrated Bar of the Philippines because all lawyers are officers of the court. Unless these charges are substantiated, it appears to be derailing already the prosecution," he said.
Roque is the counsel of heirs of 15 victims in the massacre; Quinsayas represents families of 17 massacre victims, while Santos represents 27 complainants, including Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose wife was among the 58 killed in the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre.
Santos earlier claimed that some state prosecutors are receiving bribes from the accused in the case.
She said this was after she turned down a P300 million bribe offer to drop the case.
Santos said she has evidence to prove her allegations, but added that it is not yet time to disclose these.
In the interview, Roque said he exposed attempts in the past not to include a possible trial witness in the Witness Protection Program as well as overtures to negotiate a settlement between the Ampatuans and some of the families of the massacre victims.
He said he also called out then Justice Secretary Alberto Agra for clearing two members of the Ampatuan clan in the massacre. He later filed a disbarment case against Agra.
Roque challenged Santos to do the same, saying only the Ampatuans are benefiting from the rift among the prosecutors.
"When you have alleged allies saying that we will lose and the evidence is not sufficient, we don't need an adverse party," he said.
In a press conference Wednesday, Santos said 44 out of 58 clients are objecting to the Department of Justice's move to rest the evidence.
She lambasted Atty. Harry Roque who has said the bribery allegations would only derail the trial. "Lahat kami tutol sa resting of evidence. Si Harry Roque hindi namin kasama," she said.
Atty. Gemma Oquendo, who lost her father and sister in the massacre, said she is hurt by the statement of Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan that they are only interested in the civil aspects of the case and in receiving compensation for their losses.
"Ang panawagan namin kay PNoy, magsagawa ng independent probe sa bribery accusations. Hindi lang sa prosecution, pati sa ibang biktima," she said.
The group, which is led by Maguindanao Governor Toto Mangudadatu, called on the justice department to rethink its move to rest evidence in the case.