MANILA, Philippines – The families of at least 14 of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre were offered settlements by the main respondents in exchange for identifying Maguindanao Gov Esmael Mangudadatu as the culprit, said lawyer Harry Roque.
Roque, counsel for a number of the victims’ families, told Rappler that “a close associate of the Ampatuans” approached them offering to negotiate on their behalf with the promise of a financial settlement.
“Under this scheme,” said Roque, “the victims were to sign not just a waiver and quitclaim, but also an affidavit pinning the blame for the massacre on Governor Toto Mangundadatu.”
Mangudadatu’s wife and other relatives were among the 58 killed in the November 2009 massacre – the bloodiest in recent history. Leaders of the Ampatuan clan, who have ruled Maguindanao for years, were among the 78 suspects who recently pleaded not guilty to the gruesome murders.
Fourteen families signed an authority to negotiate with the alleged Ampatuan associate, 4 of whom are Roque’s clients. No settlement or waiver has been signed, contrary to an earlier report, Roque said.
“What they signed,” explained Roque, “was an authority to negotiate.” Roque said they signed without his consent.
Roque said in an interview with Rappler that the negotiator explained to the families “that a precondition for release of settlement of money is not just signing a quitclaim but to implicate Toto Mangudadatu as culprit.”
The point may now be moot, he said, as the negotiator was reportedly killed two weeks later. Roque will be flying to General Santos City on Wednesday, June 26, to validate the story.
“Thus far, it’s been almost 4 years and there is still no end in sight to the criminal prosecution of the Ampatuans. In fact, the Philippine government took almost 4 years just to file the information for the 58th victim, Reynaldo Momay. This should give us a clue on how long the criminal proceedings will take,” Roque added. – Rappler.com