Bribery in massacre case? Bring it on, says DOJ
MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) is challenging Atty. Nena Santos to file charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against a top DOJ official and state prosecutors handling the Maguindanao massacre cases in connection with her claim that money changed hands to compromise the trial in favor of the Ampatuan clan.
That is the only way to determine, once and for all, who is telling the truth, according to Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, the supervising undersecretary of the Maguindanao massacre cases.
Baraan, along with public prosecutors handling the cases, has been accused of receiving millions in payoff by the Ampatuans.
"Mas maganda nga siguro na imbes na nagpapainterview, nagpapapresscon, nag-aakusa publicly through media, ifile na lang nila ang tamang kaso sa proper venue, Ombudsman, for example. Kung talagang may ebidensya na may witnesses, file those cases right away in the proper forum," De Lima said.
Baraan hit Santos's call for an "independent investigation" of the alleged bribery, stressing that since Santos claims she has evidence and witnesses against Baraan and the rest, Santos should just file the cases before the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional commission.
"Nena Santos, produce that witness and file the case now. Bakit ka pa maghihintay ng investigation? File an affidavit ngayon and file the cases against me," he said.
NBI STARTS PROBE
De Lima formally issued an order on Wednesday for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct its investigation into Santos's claims.
De Lima clarified that the move was in response to Baraan and the public prosecutors' request.
The justice chief summoned NBI Director Virgilio Mendez and the team on Thursday.
"May I, again, emphasize na mismo sina Usec. Baraan and the panel members, the public prosecutors, are asking for that investigation para malaman talaga ang katotohanan.
"Iimbestigahan lahat, anything related to that, na nag-umpisa dun sa nag-offer kay Atty. Nena ng P300 million and yung sinasabi ni [Lakmodin] Saliao na meron what 20 or 50 million [pesos] for public prosecutors, for Usec Baraan; and any other allegation that may crop up in relation to this whole thing, the so-called listahan, notebook," De Lima said.
All names dragged in the incident, including Ampatuan lawyers Sigfred Fortun and Arnel Manaloto will be summoned in the investigation.
De Lima ordered the NBI to submit its report within 30 days.
De Lima said while Santos's camp asked for an independent probe, this does not prevent the DOJ and NBI from conducting its own investigation.
"Because I want to know the truth behind this," she said.
"SELECTIVE" NEWS REPORT
De Lima and Baraan also questioned an ABS-CBN News report on Wednesday about an alleged notebook belonging to Ampatuan lawyer Arnel Manaloto, that purportedly contains a list of names of those who have been paid off by the Ampatuans.
They questioned why the report was "selective" and only named Baraan, private prosecutor Harry Roque, and a former staff of Baraan, Paula Garcia.
"Ang pinagtatakhan nila, bakit yung reporting kasi -- is it in TV Patrol -- tatlong pangalan lang ang nilagay dun, ang alam nila, because an ABS-CBN reporter called some of them the previous night, yung mga supposed na nasa listahan, so bakit hindi sinabi ibang pangalan?
"Dapat ilabas lahat na para malaman yung believability of that allegation, the believability of that list. How come only three names were mentioned in that report last night sa TV Patrol? Sinasadya ba yun?" De Lima asked.
"We are protesting that... tatlong pangalan pinakita sa public, at parang sinadya na hindi isama ang mas maraming pangalan pa when, in fact, we are similarly situated. Ano yung listahan? Notebook? That's rubbish, garbage, carabao manure.
"Listahan lang naman yan eh. Marami pa dyang pangalan na binanggit ni Ces Drilon noong siya ay tumawag nang ibang nakalista doon. I would not like to mention those names, gusto ko lang sabihin, in fairness to everyone, please put that out in public. Lahat ng nakapangalan dyan, pwede ilabas nyo lahat dyan? Ano yan, parang kami lang pwede sirain ang reputation, ang iba hindi? Very selective paglabas ng listahan," Baraan said.
While De Lima has expressed concern about the effect the controversy has on Baraan's health, he said he is "not concerned" about his health because "honor is more important."
Baraan said the heat on him started when the DOJ decided to rest its case against primary accused Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and 27 others in order to obtain "partial justice" for the victims's kin.
"Bakit pa namin aantayin na uugod ugod na ang nanay at tatay ng mga biktima? We are doing this for the private complainants. Do I talk like someone who's bribed? Kung nabribe ako di dinribble dribble ko itong kaso na ito. Bakit namin ilalaglag ang kaso, ang haba na ng narating nito?
"Where are they coming (Santos's camp) from? What do they want? Not only the whole country but the whole world is watching this case," Baraan said.