Malacañang to families of massacre victims: Expose bribe attempts

MANILA, Philippines – Come out and file the appropriate charges.  

This was the call made by Malacañang to families of the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre as reports surfaced anew about alleged bribery attempts made by members of the Ampatuan clan to silence witnesses. 

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said those who were offered money should come out so the government can help them. 

"We have laws against bribery. Now, it is up to the decision of the person who was bribed to submit a complaint before the courts – before the DOJ (Department of Justice), before the prosecution, and that will – and a preliminary investigation will be conducted if such a complaint will be filed. It depends on the person who claimed that she was bribed – offered a bribery to come out and present the testimony and we will look into it," Lacierda told reporters.

"Otherwise, we won’t be able to act on it, because we need the personal knowledge of the person who was offered money or bribed," he added. 

In an interview with GMA News, Myrna Reblando, widow of Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro Reblando, recounted how members of the Ampatuan clan offered her a bribe of P3 million(about $680,000) in exchange for her silence. 

The late Reblando was one of the 32 members of the media killed in the deadliest massacre committed in the Philippines in recent history that also claimed the lives of 26 others.

Myrna Reblando was forced to flee the country and move to Hong Kong in 2011 after she received threats to her life when she declined the bribe.  

Members of the Ampatuan clan, including clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr and his son Andal Jr, are facing multiple counts of murder before a Quezon City court for allegedly masterminding the Maguindanao Massacre in 2009. 

Lacierda said those who were being offered money should file the necessary charges in court so the authorities can conduct an investigation. 

Lacierda also gave assurances that those who will choose to come out will be cared for under the Witness Protection Program.

“That is very important for us – to protect them. And for those who are not covered by the Witness Protection Program, we would ask them and request them to join the program, so that they will not be put in harm’s way,” Lacierda said.

Complaint vs DOJ's Baraan

Meanwhile, another alleged bribery attempt is threatening to derail the resolution of the Maguindanao Massacre case.

Graft and administrative complaints were filed before the Ombudsman against Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and his former secretary Paula Garcia on Tuesday, August 12, for allegedly bribing complainant Jerramy Joson in exchange for the fast-tracking of a case. 

Reiterating Malacañang's stand that there was no need for an independent investigation into the charges, Lacierda said the Ombudsman was the best venue to solve the case. 

The graft charges against Baraan came weeks after 3 lawyers of private complainants protested the plan of state prosecutors to rest their case in the bail hearings and the primary evidence in support of the cases on the Maguindanao Massacre. 

One of the lawyers, Nena Santos, also accused Baraan of receiving a bribe in a meeting with former defense counsel Sigfrid Fortun. 

In response to the bribery charges made against him, Baraan said he is filing perjury charges against his accuser. 

At the height of the squabble between some private lawyers and state prosecutors, the defense team led by Fortun, on Friday, August 8, withdrew as lawyers of principal suspects, Ampatuan Sr and his son Andal Jr and 22 other accused. - Rappler.com