Until his last breath, the late Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. insisted he had no hand in the killing of 58 people in November 2009.
Ampatuan Sr.'s lawyer Salvador Panelo said that before his client went into a coma last week, the Ampatuan patriarch told him he wanted to get well so he could testify before the court that he wasn't behind the massacre.
"Truth sits upon the lips of dying men. He said, 'We are not a part of this crime. I am innocent.' They've been framed in this case," said Panelo.
But private prosecutors believe they still have a strong case against the other suspects, including Ampatuan's sons.
"We are confident that we will have a conviction in this case. We will continue with the other accused insofar as the criminal aspect is concerned. But the civil aspect the state of Andal Ampatuan Sr. will continue," said Atty. Nena Santos, private prosecutor, Maguindanao massacre case.
While the criminal liability of Ampatuan Sr. has died with him, the Justice Department said the civil aspect of the case against him can still proceed-- though it may not necessarily succeed.
But private prosecutors remain hopeful.
"There is a decision of the Supreme Court 2014 in the case of people vs Bejamin Soria, wherein the S.C. said upon the death of the accused, the civil aspect is also extinguished," said Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano.
Its now the turn of the defense to present its case. Eight witnesses have been presented so far.
Panelo says, an immigration official will testify in court next week to show that his other client, Andal Ampatuan Jr., was traveling the day plans for the massacre were allegedly being hatched.
"The prosecution witness specifically was lying. He was not there on the alleged Nov. 17, 2009 incident when he (Ampatuan Sr.) allegedly presided over a conspiracy meeting. Five members that this witness mentioned were either in Manila or abroad. My client, Andal, was on a plane coming from the U.S. on Nov 17, 2009," claimed Panelo.
He also said that Andal Jr.'s travel records should belie the testimonies of the prosecution's witnesses.
Panelo also says it's against common sense to massacre an enemy in the enemy's lair.
"This was done in the municipality of Ampatuan and this is controlled by the enemy of Ampatuans. If you're going to ambush an enemy, would you do it in the enemy lair?"
Meanwhile, the DOJ hopes to secure a conviction on the case before President Aquino steps down from office.
"We want to expedite the proceedings of this case. Of course, you have to contend that ther are several accused and several accused. Most of the counsel for the accused will take turns cross-examining witnesses," said Justice Usec. Justiniano.