MANILA - Prosecutors in the Maguindanao massacre trial engage in a word war after one of the private prosecutors reveals that some of her colleagues might be on the take.
Private prosecutor Nena Santos earlier claimed that some state prosecutors are receiving bribes from the Ampatuans, the primary suspects in the Maguindanao massacre 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.
On Thursday, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan dared Santos to present evidence that he received bribes.
"Nena Santos, look at me in the eye now produce that witness right now and file a case against me or cases against me. Enough is enough. We have been maligned already. I'm 1,000% confident na hindi nangyari yan," he said in an ANC Headstart interview.
Santos, however, said she was told by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima not to file cases against government prosecutors.
She said she still stands by her claim that she knows the person who allegedly delivered money to Baraan.
"We have the courier of money and I said that is my evidence. I told [De Lima] about this, she told me don't file cases against my prosecutors. So what will I do?" she said in the same ANC interview.
Baraan would have none of it.
"That's a total lie kasi si Secretary de Lima very cleared yan ngayon. Sabi niya kung meron kang ebidensiya, i-file mo na," he said.
Santos, however, said she has text messages from Secretary de Lima that would back her claim.
"I have the text message of the Secretary. I have exchanges of messages with her and it is in my cellphone. Don't call me a liar, Usec. Baraan. Everything that has come out of my mouth has evidence and I will show the text message," she said.
Baraan warned he will exhaust all legal remedies to clear his name.
"I will hit her and hit her hard. Hit her in the sense that we will avail of every legal remedy for me to clean my name and clean my tarnished honor," he said.
He also said he knows who is behind the notebook that supposedly lists names of people who were paid off.
Attorney Harry Roque, whose number was also listed in the notebook under the codename "Speedy", also denied allegations that he is taking bribes.
"Why is Baraan named and I have a codename? It doesn't make sense. Why hide my identity, I'm only a private prosecutor," he said.
Roque is supporting the state prosecutors' move to rest the case against trhe 28 accused, saying justice should be achieved at the soonest time.
He conceded that prosecutors cannot convict all 194 accused the term of President Aquino. "That is why we just want the Ampatuans to undergo the process of promulgation," he said.
Roque also defended Baraan, saying the undersecretary merely has an oversight function.
"Baraan does not even take care of strategy. He is undersecretary in charge but as far as strategy is concerned, he doesn't even join us in strategy meetings. It is always the head of the panel who is in charge of the strategy meetings. That is why i'm surprised that they are making a big deal about Baraan," he said.
Baraan said resting the case against the 28 accused does not mean the other Ampatuans are off the hook.
"We are not yet resting the case against the two of them. Kasama dito si Andal [Ampatuan] Jnr pa lang kasi sabi ng Supreme Court first in first out. Kung tapos na kayo ng ebidensya sa ilang akusado, pwede na mag-rest ng case at humingi ng separate trial," he said.
Roque urged Santos to bring her case to the Supreme Court if she has problems with the first in, first out guidelines.
With the bribery issue muddling the case, he is also urging Santos to resign.
"The resulting intrigues is not helping the prosecution of the case. Who needs Atty. [Sigfrid] Fortun (lawyer of Andal Jr.) when among the ranks we have Nena Santos saying we don't have sufficient evidence to convict? Who will benefit from the statement? Certainly not the victims. We're dealing with the one of the most powerful, influential, richest families in the country. I'm not surprised these things are happening now," he said.
Fifty-eight victims, including 32 media practitioners, were killed in the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre.
The massacre in 2009 was allegedly orchestrated by the Ampatuan clan in a bid to stop Esmael Mangudadatu from challenging one of its members for the post of governor in Maguindanao, a farming province in the southern island of Mindanao.
Mangudadatu's rival, Andal Ampatuan Jnr, allegedly led his family's private army in stopping a convoy carrying his foe's wife, relatives, lawyers and a group of 32 journalists, and then gunning them down on a grassy hill.
The bodies were found almost immediately afterwards, in roadside pits dug using a government-owned mechanical digger.
The Ampatuans had ruled Maguindanao for about a decade under the patronage of then-president Gloria Arroyo, who had used the clan's militias as a buffer against Muslim separatist rebels.
Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao are the traditional homelands of the Philippines' Muslim minority. With Agence France-Presse