Maguindanao massacre trial

09/16/2010 - MANILA, Philippines - Prosecution witness Laks Saliao, a house helper of the Ampatuans for some 20 years, continued his explosive testimony on Wednesday (September 15) in the Maguindanao massacre trial.

Andal Ampatuan Sr., his sons and other relatives, are prime suspects in the November 23 killings of at least 57 people, including women and journalists in Maguindanao.

Saliao said that when Maguindanao was placed under martial law in December, Andal Sr., the former governor, fled to Davao pretending to be sick.

"Tuwing checkpoint, ilalagay ko ang oxygen mask sa ilong para kunyari ay malubha ang kalagayan," Saliao said.

On December 6, Andal Sr. was arrested on a separate charge of rebellion and was brought to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Camp Panacan.

It was then that the Ampatuan patriarch allegedly went on a bribery spree to make life easier for him and his family.

Saliao testified that Andal Sr. ordered his spiritual adviser to give several government and police officials millions of pesos.

On top of the list was then Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza, who, according to Saliao, got P10 million pesos to have Andal Sr.'s rebellion case dropped.

Saliao added that Maguindanao police chief Sukarno Dicay and police officer Rainier Ebus were also given P10 million each so they would retract their testimonies against the Ampatuans.

Another P20 million was given to Maguindanao board member Mike Midtimbang supposedly to ensure the Ampatuans' welfare while under detention.

Speaking to ANC on Wednesday, Dureza called Saliao’s testimony a mere fabrication.

"I heard also that I supposed to have received P10 to P200 million. Sabi ko nga, sana totoo, I'll be millions richer. That is a little bit, not only fabrication but it is really amusing dahil yung dismissal of rebellion charges kasi, kung ako yun, is totally out of my hands. How can I dismiss these cases? The cases were actually being handled by the DOJ [Department of Justice] and the courts," Dureza said.

Aside from the alleged bribery, Saliao also testified about a meeting between Andal Sr. and defense lawyer Sigfrid Fortun last March.

This was after former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan complained to his father about his condition in jail.

After the meeting, Saliao said Ampatuan Sr. asked his son not to admit to the crime as advised by Fortun.

Saliao claimed that another Ampatuan laywer, Philip Pantojan, told him to fabricate a charge against a military officer guarding Andal Sr. in the camp.

The prosecution now plans to file before the Supreme Court a disbarment case against the Ampatuan lawyers.

The prosecution also wants the government to look into the Ampatuans' wealth.

“Hihingin din naming sa Department of Justice na imbestigahan ano itong mga taong nadawit sa testimonya dahil hindi lamang unethical ang ginawa ng mga abogado dito dahil ito ay kriminal din. Hihingin din namin dun sa Anti-Money Laundering Council na buksan na ang mga accounts ng mga Ampatuan dahil sa testimonya ng testigong ito, ay halos P400 million ang pinakawalan nila para pagtakpan ang kanilang papel dito sa massacre na ito,” Harry Roque, lawyer of families of massacre victims, said.

The defense, meanwhile, wants more time to prepare for the cross examination of Saliao.

The trial will resume at the end of the month. (ABS-CBN News Channel)

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