Lawyer says efforts to bribe families of Ampatuan Massacre victims persist

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 November)– Attempts to bribe families of the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre to back out from the case and exonerate the principal suspects have reportedly persisted in the last four years but no one has so far acceded to them, a private prosecutor disclosed.

Lawyer Prima Quinsayas, counsel for the families of 17 massacre victims, said a number of reports on various bribes and deal offers have surfaced since 2010 supposedly coming from the family of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and other clan members who were charged for the murders on November 23, 2009.

Fifty-eight people, including 32 media workers, were brutally killed in the massacre, which happened in a hilly portion of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.

Quinsayas said the bribe offers, some of which reportedly reached her clients, ranged from P250,000 to P25 million.

She said the bribes were in exchange for the signing by the relatives of the massacre victims of affidavits of desistance or declaration that the accused Ampatuans were not involved in the massacre and her removal as their counsel.

“Let’s assume that these offers are real and so far I have not heard of anyone accepting or signing any deal,” she told reporters here.

In June, several reports came out that the families of at least 14 of the massacre victims have signed deals that would exonerate the primary suspects.

It quoted lawyer Harry Roque, a counsel for the families of some of the victims, as the source of the supposed settlement deal with the Ampatuans.

Roque later clarified that four of his clients signed “the authorities to negotiate” with the Ampatuans without his knowledge.

He said the authorities to negotiate, copies of which were not even given the families of the victims, were signed in February.

The scheme, according to him, would lead to a waiver and a quitclaim. It also points the blame to the husband of one of the victims, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu.

The main respondents in the multiple murder case are former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr, and his sons Zaldy, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Andal Jr., former mayor of Datu Unsay town. They have been detained in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City along with some other clan members.

Andal Jr. was the alleged leader of the estimated 100 gunmen that waylaid the convoy of the victims, who were on their way to Shariff Aguak town to file the certificate of candidacy for governor of Mangudadatu, then Buluan town vice mayor, for the May 2010 elections. The media workers were there to cover the filing of Mangudadatu’s candidacy.

If there are indeed signed deals or settlements, Quinsayas said she wants them to come out in the open as they could translate to “proofs of guilt” on the part of the accused based on the rules of court.

She explained that compromise payments will only be considered and may not be used as proofs of guilt in accidental death cases.

“It’s not applicable in murder cases, much more in a massacre,” she added. (MindaNews)