MANILA, Philippines -- Maguindanao massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. sold at least eight properties to his own lawyer before the Court of Appeals issued the freeze order against all the clan's assets, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said.
PCIJ Multimedia Director Ed Lingao said documents showed that eight Ampatuan properties were sold to Andal Jr.'s lawyer two and a half weeks before the Court of Appeals ordered the freezing of all their known assets, which include at least 500 hectares of land.
"The courts were asked by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) na i-freeze 'yung properties nila. Baka ma-dissipate kasi we're filing a civil forfeiture case. Eh naunahan sila," Lingao told radio dzMM.
He said AMLAC filed for a freeze order request on May 30 last year, 17 days after Andal Jr. sold the properties to his lawyer.
Questions on legality and ethics
Lingao said, "Magmumukhang legal 'yung benta dahil naunahan nila by 2 and a half weeks. That's on the surface, since we don't want to presume anything yet."
"On the other hand, may problema dun sa part na ibinenta sa abogado. You're not supposed to sell to your lawyer properties that are subject to litigation and judicial scrutiny," he added.
He also claimed that there is now a clear conflict of interest.
"As the lawyer, you're supposed to represent your client to the best of his interest. But if you buy the property, it is not his interest that you're concerned with anymore," he said.
'There are still unknown Ampatuan assets'
Lingao said the Ampatuan clan's known assets include mansions in Maguindanao, Davao, Dasmariñas Village in Makati and Pasong Tamo in Central Business District.
He said, however, that there is a big possibility that some of the family's properties are still undocumented by the AMLAC.
"(AMLAC is) still verifying other properties linked to the Ampatuans and are waiting for more documentations of suspected properties of the Ampatuans," Lingao said.
The court is also planning to file a request for an update of the registry of deeds in different cities in Mindanao, he added.