Maguindanao Massacre: De Lima takes over prosecution panel

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - October 30, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has decided to personally supervise the prosecution panel in the Maguindanao massacre case following a row between public and private prosecutors over bribery insinuations.

In an interview yesterday, she said she has taken over as overall supervisor of the prosecution team after meeting the two sides last week.

“We will consider this as institutional matter that is not confined to just one supervising official. I will be overall supervising official and will ask for help from PG (Prosecutor General Claro Arellano) and other undersecretaries,” she said.

De Lima made the decision after Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu sought the replacement of Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III as supervising official of the prosecution panel after questioning his integrity.

But Baraan clarified that he was not replaced or taken out of the Department of Justice panel.

“It’s just because I told Secretary (De Lima) that I cannot work or coordinate with Nena Santos (lawyer of Mangudadatu). She understood and told me she would just handle it. But the panel continues to consult me because I have not been replaced,” he explained.

Santos earlier accused Baraan and some members of the prosecution team of accepting bribes from the camp of the Ampatuans, who are among the principal suspects in the case. De Lima ordered a probe on this allegation last August, but the National Bureau of Investigation has yet to submit its report.

De Lima said she would still need concrete proof against Baraan, who has vehemently denied the accusations: “I just have to be convinced that their lack of trust in Baraan has basis.”

She said she trusts the DOJ team as much as she recognizes the contributions of the private prosecutors like Santos to the case.

Asked if the DOJ remains on track in securing the conviction of the accused in the multiple murder cases, led by Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., before the end of Aquino administration in 2016, De Lima would not say for sure.

“We still have the same aspiration, but as to whether or not that’s possible I cannot tell at this point after I was reminded that there are 300 witnesses to be presented by the defense in the bail hearings,” she said.

AMPATUAN JR. BARAAN BUT BARAAN DATU UNSAY DE LIMA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE JUSTICE SECRETARY LEILA MAGUINDANAO GOV MANGUDADATU NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
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