‘Journalists not barred from covering massacre trial’

First published in The Philippine Star, 13 November 2014

The Quezon City judge handling the Maguindanao massacre trial yesterday said journalists are not barred from covering the court proceedings at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 told The STAR that the court proceedings have always been open to the public.

She made the clarification after police and jail officials banned journalists from attending the massacre trial.

Solis-Reyes said the court has not changed its rules when it comes to media coverage, adding that journalists are allowed to attend the hearings provided that they only take notes using pen and paper.

She said only the live broadcast of the trial is prohibited based on a 2012 Supreme Court (SC) ruling. Read more of this post


Backhoe operator tags Bedol in bribe try

First published in The Philippine Star, 4 November 2014

The backhoe operator who allegedly dug the graves of the victims in the Maguindanao massacre has accused former election supervisor Lintang Bedol of attempting to bribe him to alter his testimony.

Suspect Bong Andal, in a 47-page judicial affidavit obtained by The STAR, said Bedol – a former Maguindanao provincial election supervisor – approached him last June in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame, where they are both detained.

Andal is charged with multiple murder in connection with massacre, while Bedol is facing charges for allegedly rigging the results of the 2007 midterm elections in Maguindanao.

According to Andal, Bedol asked him if he will accept P300,000 in exchange for not identifying a certain “RG” as among those involved in the Maguindanao massacre.

“You will just refuse to identify him and then you will earn money,” Bedol allegedly told Andal, who said he refused the offer because he does not want to sacrifice his family.

When he asked who will give him the money, Bedol supposedly told him that the money will come from him.

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Massacre meant to frame Ampatuans, lawyer claims

First published in The Philippine Star, 1 October 2014

The new lawyer of Maguindanao massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. believes that members of the Ampatuan clan were “framed” by their political enemies in a bid to seize power.

“Why would the Ampatuans waylay and massacre the wife of a political rival and followers plus media practitioners in the enemy’s lair? That’s against common sense and logic,” lawyer Salvador Panelo said in a text message.

Panelo, who visited the massacre site yesterday, said the incident happened in the town of Datu Unsay, which he said is controlled by a rival clan – the Sangkis.

“They should have done it in the succeeding towns of Datu Shariff Aguak, Datu Hofer and Datu Amerah which they controlled,” he said. “I’m more convinced that the Ampatuans have been framed to seize political power.” Read more of this post

‘Fiscals delayed massacre trial 114 times’

First published in The Philippine Star, 29 March 2014

The defense panel in the Maguindanao massacre trial has accused prosecutors of delaying court proceedings, citing 114 instances when they moved for early suspension or cancellation of scheduled proceedings.

In a 12-page counter-manifestation released yesterday, lawyer Philip Sigfrid Fortun – representing members of the Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Andal Jr. and Zaldy – dubbed as inaccurate the prosecution’s claim that they were unfairly accused of delaying the proceedings.

“The prosecution’s current posture in disavowing fault for the delay in the completion of trial in these cases four years after they started their presentation is unacceptable,” said Fortun in the March 20 document submitted to the court.

He noted that since the start of the trial, there were 114 instances when the panel moved for continuance, had no witnesses to present, or had no substitute witnesses for those who could not be presented.

The lawyer also noted instances when the panel moved for the suspension due to miscommunication with their own witnesses or failure to comply with agreements with the defense on submission of documents to be identified by their witnesses.

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