Kin of massacre victims urged to expose bribe attempts

Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The government is asking families of Maguindanao massacre victims to come out and expose bribery attempts from the Ampatuan clan or other individuals so they can provide protection to them and obtain justice.

In a press briefing yesterday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said state prosecutors handling the case had been replaced and it would be up to the accusers to file charges before the Office of the Ombudsman if they have evidence against them.

Reports said Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and others allegedly received bribes to weaken the charges against the Ampatuans and others involved in the massacre.

Myrna Reblando, widow of slain Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro Reblando, disclosed she was offered P3 million by members of the Ampatuan family in exchange for her silence.

Reblando was quoted in reports as saying she received threats after rejecting the bribe, forcing her to stay in Hong Kong while the Maguindanao massacre case was being heard.

Lacierda said they could assist in filing bribery cases and advised those being offered money in exchange for their silence to file a complaint before the court so that the Department of Justice could conduct an investigation.

“Otherwise, we won’t be able to act on it,” Lacierda said, noting that bribery always involved personal knowledge.

He added they could assure witnesses that they would be covered by the Witness Protection Program.

“That is very important for us – to protect them. For those who are not covered by the Witness Protection Program, we would ask them to join the program, so that they will not be put in harm’s way,” he said.

“Of course, there is a possibility that there will be attempts to bribe them.”

Members of the Ampatuan clan are facing multiple counts of murder before a Quezon City court for allegedly masterminding the massacre in November 2009, which claimed the lives of 58 people, most of them members of media.

Lacierda said the bribery allegations against state prosecutors must be settled and the “best venue” would be the Office of the Ombudsman.

“(Justice) Secretary Leila de Lima is there anyway. She can well handle the supervision of the Maguindanao massacre case,” Lacierda said, adding “there’s a new set of prosecutors that were put in place” by De Lima.

“We have laws against bribery. Now it is up to the decision of the person who was bribed to submit a complaint before the courts,” he said.

Lacierda said there was no need for an independent investigation into the matter since these issues could be brought before the ombudsman.

He said it would be up to De Lima to determine whether Baraan should take a leave from his post while investigation is ongoing.

‘Fabrication’

Meanwhile, Baraan yesterday denied the graft charges filed against him before the ombudsman in a carjacking case he said he never handled.

He described the allegations in the complaint filed by Jerramy Joson as “complete fabrication.”

Joson alleged that Paola Garcia, Baraan’s executive assistant in the DOJ, offered her a favorable ruling on the petition for review in his carjacking charges against lawyer Arnel Manaloto, former counsel of the Ampatuans in the Maguindanao massacre case.

Joson is an estranged friend of Manaloto, according to an ABS-CBN News report.

Last year, she provided information on the wealth amassed by the lawyer. Manaloto is accused of being the dummy owner of eight of Andal Ampatuan Jr.’s properties in Davao City.

The lawyer is now facing a tax evasion case at the DOJ after the Bureau of Internal Revenue said he had undeclared income of at least P20 million.– With Edu Punay

ALEJANDRO REBLANDO AMPATUAN AMPATUANS ANDAL AMPATUAN JR. BARAAN DE LIMA LACIERDA MAGUINDANAO OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM
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