'Victims’ kin eyed P50-m each deal
For P50 million each, 14 families of the 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre were ready to consider withdrawing multiple murder charges against members of the influential Ampatuan clan, one of the lawyers of the victims’ families said Monday.
Lawyer Harry Roque said the 14 families, four of which were his clients, signed a written authority in February with a close associate of the Ampatuans to negotiate a settlement with one of the principal accused, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.
The out-of-court negotiations did not push through because the middleman in the deal was killed, Roque said, without identifying the negotiator.
“According to my four clients, who are among the 14 involved, the appointed negotiator was killed. I would like to know if he is alive or really dead. I myself will go to the provincial hall to see his death certificate,” Roque told the Manila Standard.
He also said the alleged deal required not only a quitclaim and a waiver, but affidavits from the 14 families pinning the massacre on the Ampatuans’ rival, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who had lost a wife and three sisters in the 2009 bloodbath.
“Unless the Philippine government complies with its duty to pay compensation, the victims will continuously be tempted with schemes that may eventually cause a miscarriage of justice”, Roque said.
Roque also announced that some of the families of the 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre will seek the help of the United Nations in urging the Philippine government to provide compensation and to speed up the trial.
He said his clients will file a communication with the UN’s Human Rights Committee for the government’s failure to accord the victims their rights to an adequate legal remedy and compensation.
“Thus far, it’s been almost four years and there is still no end in sight to the criminal prosecution of the Ampatuans. In fact, the Philippine government took almost four years just to file the information for the 58th victim, Reynaldo Momay. This should give us a clue on how long the criminal proceedings will take,” Roque said.
Momay, a photojournalist of the Mindanao-based newspaper Midland Review, was officially recognized as the 58th massacre victim by the Justice Department only in July 2012. To date, Momay’s remains have not been found.
Roque said the government was obliged to give compensation to the massacre victims separate from the civil damages that the court may order the accused to pay to the private complainants as part of the judgment in criminal cases for murders.
“The compensation that is due to the victims is because it is the state itself that breached its obligation to protect and promote the right of the victims to live. This includes not just monetary compensation, but also all that may be required to restore the emotional and psychological well being of the victims,“Roque said.
At present, Roque said, they still had a pending motion for the court to order government agencies to provide psycho-social support to the victims.
The massacre took place in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, on Nov. 23, 2009, when about 100 gunmen, allegedly led by Ampatuan’s son Andal Ampatuan Jr., blocked a convoy of the Mangudadatus, which was on its way to file a certificate of candidacy for governor.
Mangudadatu was not in the convoy but he lost his wife Bai Genalyn, three sisters, an aunt, and a cousin in the massacre, the worst politically related killings in the country.
Of the 58 victims, 32 were journalists and media workers.
The Quezon City Regional Trial Court has charged a total of 196 suspects with multiple murder, although only 106 have been arrested so far.
At least 85 accused have been arraigned for the first set of 57 counts of murder, including members of the Ampatuan clan.
RTC Judge Jocelyn Reyes of Branch 221 earlier denied a bid by one of the accused, Datukan Malang Salibo, to have the charges against him dismissed because of mistaken identity. With Rio N. Araja
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