New panel of public prosecutors in Ampatuan massacre named
- Reinir Padua () - March 17, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The new panel of public prosecutors in the “Maguindanao massacre” multiple murder case officially took over yesterday, with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima having to designate a senior executive to ensure that a clash of “egos” between the fiscals and the private prosecutors would never happen again.

Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III went to the hearing yesterday at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, saying he has been designated by De Lima to be “on top of the situation” and ensure that the prosecutors “maintain a solid front.”

Assistant Regional State Prosecutor Peter Medalle assumed as the head of the prosecution panel, replacing Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon. Some other members of the panel have also been replaced. “It was not a complete overhaul. It won’t weaken the case. In fact it will strengthen it,” Baraan told reporters on the sidelines of the hearing.

Baraan clarified that the replacement of some of the members of the prosecution panel “goes beyond the issue of competence,” noting that Fadullon was “very competent” in his handling of the multiple murder case. He said that because of this, the new panel inherited “a very solid case” against the 196 accused in the multiple murder trial.

Baraan, however, said there had been “egos that got in the way” between the private prosecutors and the fiscals in the past.

De Lima earlier said her decision to replace some of the public prosecutors was because of a rift between them and the private lawyers for the families of the victims.

Furthermore, two private lawyers have expressed contrasting opinions on the recent removal of certain government fiscals who worked hand in hand with them in prosecuting the Ampatuan massacre case.

For lawyer Harry Roque while the decision of De Lima “should be respected,” the changes should have focused more on issues rather than personalities.”It would have been better if we discussed long term strategies than replace individuals who will handle the case. We should discuss issues on how to finish (the case) the soonest time possible than naming different people in the panel. It should be more on issues rather than personality,” he told The STAR in a phone interview.

Roque, who represents 15 of the 57 victims, said his opinion on the revamp was never sought and he only learned of it through the newspapers. He denied having any rift with the panel as earlier reported.

It’s not accurate to say there was a squabble among public and private prosecutors. It should be some private prosecutors because I don’t have any problem with them (government panel),” Roque said.

In related developments, for the first time in the one year and four months that the “Maguindanao massacre” multiple murder trial has run, the prosecution yesterday flashed inside the courtroom photos of the grisly crime scene in Ampatuan town. The photos included those of bodies of men, one of whom had his brain tissues exposed, eliciting cringes from those in the gallery.

A daughter of one of the victims was noticeably sighing as photos of the bloodied bodies were being shown on the projector inside the Quezon City RTC Branch 221.

A daughter of one of the victims was noticeably sighing as photos of the bloodied bodies were being shown on the projector inside the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.

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