DoJ chief: Hush money offered to massacre victims
By Benjamin B. Pulta
The Daily Tribune
Hush money is reportedly being offered to relatives of victims of the Maguindanao massacre last November, Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Agnes Devanadera yesterday said.
The DoJ chief said she wants to allocate funding for the relatives of victims of the Maguindanao carnage so that they will not be tempted to accept bribe from the defense camp.
In an interview, Devanadera said she is verifying reports that some relatives of the massacre victims have agreed to settle with the Ampatuan clan in exchange for the dropping of the murder charges against them.
She added that the funds could be sourced from various government or private institutions or even from the DoJ.
Devanadera also said there were already some offers coming from the private sector to set up a financial assistance package for the victims’ families, but she did not elaborate.
“That’s why I’m proposing the setting aside of funds for massacre victims. I also receive text messages to that effect, but we are still verifying those reports. Anything is being texted nowadays. I also received texts from some family members and they assured me that they won’t accept the offer,” she told reporters.
The Justice chief said that even if one or two complainants have dropped the charges against the Ampatuans, it would have little or no bearing in the prosecution of the case since it was not a personal crime but a crime against the Republic.
“It’s just one count; there are 57 people who died in the massacre. If they (Ampatuans) tried to pay the victims, they would just be settling their civil liability, but they cannot escape the criminal aspect of the case. The mere fact that they committed bribe, they are already liable,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Devanadera attended the hearing of the murder case at Camp Crame to signify her support to the victims’ family, who were worried that the case may be relegated to the back burner by the state prosecutors.
Lawyer Harry Roque, one of the lawyers for the victims, admitted after the hearing yesterday that he received offers to drop the case against the Ampatuans.
The influential clan, led by its patriarch, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and son, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., were charged for the death of the 57 individuals gruesomely killed and then buried at a hillside of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.
About 197 persons were similarly charged with murder, including Ampatuan’s other sons, ARMM Gov. Zaldy, Maguindanao Gov. Sajid Islam, Anwar and Akmad. The Quezon City Regional Trial Court is hearing the multiple murder cases.