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Lawyer of Maguindanao massacre victims says she was offered P300M to drop case

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
maguindanao massacre
In this file photo taken November 2018, families and journalists gather in Ampatuan, Maguindanao to mark the ninth year since the massacre.
Philstar.com / Jonathan de Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The lawyer representing a number of the families of those slain in the decade-long Maguindanao massacre case said she was offered a large sum of money to drop the case very early on. 

Lawyer Nena Santos said on ANC's "Headstart" that it was offered to her "about a year after" the killing. According to her, relatives of the 38 victims she represented were also given similar offers to recant their testimonies. 

"[It was] 'leave the case and it's yours.' In the later part, they knew who [was] handling the overall strategy on whom to present. I think they were able to decipher that they had to remove [me] from the case," she said.  

When she ignored the offers she said she also received death threats through text messages and phone calls. 

Infamously known as the Maguindanao massacre, the ambush, which happened on Nov. 23, 2009, left 58 people dead, including 32 media workers. 

'Brazenness'

"There were already so many killings in Maguindanao allegedly perpetrated by the [Ampatuan] clan [but] many people who were victims are afraid to go and file a case because of the fear of how powerful the clan was," she said.

"The brazenness is there because they thought they controlled the police, the military [and] the political arena there in Maguindanao. And they were close with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, so that emboldens them to [carry out] this heinous crime."

The Ampatuan clan had long enjoyed its political power in the area that was only extended due to their friendship with the former president. Andal Ampatuan Jr. is among the primary accused in the decade-old massacre. 

Santos shared the sentiment of Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, who lost his wife, sisters, cousin and aunt in the killings, that the coming promulgation would serve as "an important precedent" for the justice system and democracy at large in the country. 

The aforementioned lawmaker earlier said that the decision would be the ultimate "litmus test" for the body of laws in the Philippines. 

He also expressed confidence that the existing case against the major suspects was enough to yield a conviction on Thursday. 

Media groups have called the case the worst election-related killing in the country. Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 was scheduled to release its decision in November until Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes asked the Supreme Court for an extension. 

The verdict is set to come out on December 19 to live media coverage of its promulgation. 

ATTY. NENA SANTOS MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE REP. ESMAEL MANGUDADATU
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