Maguindanao trial reveals bribery


MANILA, Sept. 15 – The Maguindanao massacre trial resumed Wednesday with top prosecution witness Lakmodin Saliao disclosed in detail how his former boss Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the 196 accused in the gruesome killing, allegedly attempted to bribe police and government officials with millions of pesos to avoid indictment in the massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists in southern Philippines on Nov. 23, 2009. Saliao used to work with the powerful Ampatuan clan for 18 years before he turned state witness in the celebrated Maguindanao massacre case.

In his testimony in open court, Saliao said that Andal Sr. wanted to give former Press Secretary Jesus Dureza P10 million (US$222,000) to make sure that the separate rebellion charges against the Ampatuan family would be dismissed.

Dureza vehemently denied the allegation of Saliao when interviewed by Channel 2 television station.

According to Saliao others who were allegedly offered were Police Inspector Sukarno Dicay, former police chief of Ampatuan town, Maguindanao board member Mike Midtimbang and Police Officer 1 Rainier Ebus, a suspect in the massacre.

Saliao said that the bribe money was allegedly offered to Dicay and Ebus to retract their statements against the Ampatuan family tagged as the alleged mastermind in the gory killings. Midtimbang was the one who took care of Ampatuan Sr. while in police custody in Camp Panacan.

The Maguindanao trial is being held at the Regional Trial Court Branch 221 at Camp Bagong Diwa in suburban Taguig City in Metro Manila.

The 57 massacre victims were on a convoy of vehicles when they were stopped and gunned down by over 100 armed men in Maguindanao on that fateful day of Nov. 23 last year.

When Saliao was asked during the cross-examination by defense lawyer Marlon Pagaduan whether Saliao was aware if the people he mention received the money, Saliao said “I don’t know.”

Dicay told reporters after Wednesday's proceedings that he was indeed offered a P10-million bribe, but said he did not accept it. "No amount of money could replace the lives lost in the massacre," he said.

Ebus confirmed the bribe attempt but the offer was only P5 million. Ebus added rejected the offer.

The flow of money, however, did not stop with police officials and local government officials. Saliao also recounted an incident when a certain Tadeo Sayson, a local prosecutor, visited Andal Sr. and received P5,000 for each signature that he affixed on several documents.

Asia, Press FreedomBen Cal