De Lima takes over supervision of Maguindanao massacre case

Rappler.com
De Lima takes over supervision of Maguindanao massacre case
Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, the former head of the case, will continue to be part of the team

MANILA, Philippines – Because of the rift between public prosecutors and two private lawyers over legal strategies and bribery allegations, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has decided to personally oversee the Maguindanao massacre case. 

The former head of the team, Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III will continue to be part of the legal team prosecuting the case.

De Lima made the decision as government lawyers led by Baraan and private lawyers Nena Santos and Prima Quinsayas failed to resolve their differences.  

The National Bureau of Investigation is presently investigating Baraan after Santos accused him of receiving a P20-million bribe from members of the Ampatuan clan, who are the primary suspects in the most gruesome massacre to happen in recent Philippine history.

Baraan has denied the allegations. De Lima also reiterated Wednesday she still needs concrete proof that the private lawyers’ “lack of trust” in Baraan has basis. 

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

The massacre on November 23, 2009, claimed the lives of at least 58 victims, including 32 journalists. Their bodies were dug out in a mass grave in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao. 

The Ampatuans were believed to have plotted the massacre to derail the political plans of rival Esmael Mangudadatu for the 2010 May elections. Mangudadatu, whose wife was among the massacre victims, was elected Maguindanao governor in that election.

Trial has been delayed, however. More than 30 policemen who were implicated in the mass murder have even won petitions to post bail.

Santos represents 27 Ampatuan massacre victims, including the Mangudadatus. Quinsayas is the legal counsel of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, which represents 17 media victims.

Conflict between private and public lawyers forced the Department of Justice (DOJ) to replace the head of the prosecution team at least twice in the past.  

In 2011, De Lima sacked Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon and his team. He was replaced by Assistant Regional State Prosecutor Peter Medalle, who later on was replaced by then Taguig City Prosecutor Archimedes Manabat.

The DOJ views the Ampatuan massacre as a litmus test for the government’s vow to end the culture of impunity in the country. (READ: DOJ: Ampatuan massacre convictions by 2016). – Rappler.com

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