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Lawyer: Kin of 14 Maguindanao massacre victims mull settlement with Ampatuans


(Updated 2 p.m.) Families of some of the victims in the infamous November 2009 Maguindanao massacre have reportedly allowed an associate of the Ampatuan clan to negotiate a settlement with members of the powerful family linked to the gruesome carnage that left 58 people dead, a private prosecutor bared Monday.

Laywer Harry Roque of the Center for International Law said the families of 14 victims, four of whom are represented by his law firm, signed a written authority last February for a "close associate of the Ampatuans" to negotiate a settlement with the accused individuals.

"Under this scheme, the victims were to sign not just a waiver and quitclaim, but also an affidavit pinning the blame for the massacre on Governor Toto Mangudadatu," Roque said, referring to the re-elected Maguindanao governor who lost his wife and two sisters in the massacre.

GMA News Online was still trying to reach lawyers of the Ampatuans for their comment on Roque's claim as of posting time.

Roque said the agreement was made without his knowledge. He also refused to identify who among the victims' kin agreed to the settlement, saying he only learned about the settlement deal from one of his clients.

The 58 victims, majority of them journalists, were part of an electoral convoy that was supposed to file Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy for the 2010 elections when he first ran for governor. They were killed allegedly upon the orders of the Ampatuans, a known political family in Maguindanao.

Mangudadatu, who was not part of the convoy, won the 2010 gubernatorial race. He was re-elected in the recently concluded May 13 elections.

It has been three and a half years since the murder trial began. More than 100 suspects are already in police custody, while around 90 remain at large.
 
The suspects include prominent members of the Ampatuan clan, including patriarch Andal Sr., and his sons Andal Jr, Rizaldy, and Sajid.
 
Andal Sr., Andal Jr. and Rizaldy have pleaded not guilty in the case.

Roque blames govt

Roque said he would be visiting his clients in Mindanao on Wednesday to gather more information about the supposed agreement.

He also said the agreement has forced his camp to file a communication with the United Nations Human Rights Committee to complain about the Philippine government's alleged failure to provide an "adequate remedy under domestic law and compensation" for the victims' families.

“Thus far, it’s been almost four years and there is still no end in sight to the criminal prosecution of the Ampatuans," said Roque.

The massacre — considered as the worst case of election-related violence in the country's history — entered its 43rd month Sunday.

"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, who was from Midland Review, was the 58th victim of the massacre. Initially he was not considered a victim in the killings, since only his dentures were recovered at the crime site at Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town.

After an appeal from Momay's daughter, the Department of Justice conducted a preliminary investiation on his case and decided to add him officially as a victim, bringing to 58 from the original 57 the number of murder cases lodged against the suspects.

Compensation

Roque clarified that the compensation his clients are seeking from the government was separate from the civil damages they are claiming from the suspects.

“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 tor restore the emotional and psychological well being of the victims," he said.

The lawyer stressed that until now, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 has yet to grant his camp's request that the government be compelled to provide "psycho-social support" for the families of the victims.

"This has not been acted upon but has strangely given rise to a petition filed by the accused to cite us in contempt, allegedly for 'prejudging' the merits of the case,” he added. — KBK/YA, GMA News