Malacañang eyes investigation on Maguindanao ‘bribery’

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Malacañang on Monday asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to look into reports of a P50-million bribe attempt on a private prosecutor in the Maguindanao massacre trial.

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In a press conference, Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should get to the bottom of these accusations.

“We will ask Secretary Leila de Lima to shed light on this matter, and I am sure all of us in government, and media in particular, monitors the Maguindanao trial case. We would like to see a conviction in this massacre trial,” Lacierda told reporters.

He added that the administration is confident that the government will secure a conviction despite issues involving the prosecutors.

“This is a long process. In the estimation of the public prosecutors, there is more than enough evidence to sustain a conviction,” Lacierda said.

A former employee of Andal Ampatuan Sr. earlier accused DOJ prosecutors of accepting P50 million from the primary suspects supposedly in exchange for weakening the case.

That angle was fueled by an open row between state prosecutors and private prosecutors, led by the lawyer of former Maguindanao Vice Gov. Esmail Mangudadatu, who opposed the move of state lawyers to rest the presentation of evidence.

The private prosecutors, led by Nena Santos, said state lawyers had missed opportunities to go to Mindanao where more witnesses and evidence could be obtained against the accused.

The talk of an alleged payoff, meanwhile, blew wide into the open when Lakmodin Saliao, former aide to the Ampatuans, said he asked by his former boss to talk to the prosecutors.

Saliao, in an interview with Bombo Radyo, said he deposited P20 million for Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan 3rd, who headed the panel of prosecutors.

“I was with the Ampatuans then. I was the one who personally called Atty. [Sigfred] Fortun to discuss how we can pay off the panel for the freedom of the Ampatuans and for the DOJ not to interfere in efforts to jail the Ampatuans,” Saliao said.

Baraan has vehemently denied the accusations.

De Lima also rejected the bribery report.

“That is simply preposterous,” the Justice chief said, adding that no evidence had been presented to prove that there was indeed an attempt to bribe prosecutors.

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