It was another day of revelation and surprises on the continuation of the Ampatuan massacre case. The former Ampatuan houseboy, Lakmodin Saliao (“Lak”), took another three hours to detail what transpired after the November 23, 2009 massacre. It was a testimony that sounded like chapters in a mystery novel replete with allegations of bribery, perjury , and plots to kill. The difference of course was that his testimony was not fiction.
According to Lak, the Ampatuan patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr immediately ordered the release of 200 million pesos immediately after the massacre. While he did not detail how the 200 million was actually disbursed, he did say that further sums were ordered released for specific purposes. For instance, he detailed how the older Ampatuan ordered the payment of 10 Million Pesos to, among others, former Secretary Jesus Dureza apparently in exchange for his immediate release “sa pagkakarelease ng rebellion”, which I interpreted to mean upon the release of the old man from detention because of what they anticipated would be a ruling that the rebellion charges against him will be dismissed for lack of merit. Apparently, the clan may have thought that only rebellion charges would be filed against him because murder, pursuant to the People vs. Hernandez ruling, is absorbed in a charge for rebellion. If my interpretation of the answer of the witness is correct, this would confirm what many thought all along: that the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao last year was a pretext for absolving the Ampatuan clan. Some one apparently had the bright idea that since murder should be absorbed by rebellion, a dismissal of the rebellion charges would mean absolution for the Ampatuans.
The witness also implicated four (4) NBI agents who allegedly received 10 million from the Ampatuan patriarch intended to bribe Maguindanao Chief of Police Sukarno Dikay and suspect Rainier Ebu into recanting their previous statements implicating the Ampatuan clan. Early on, the witness also related how at least 3 members of the bar including, Cynthia Sayudi, Solicitor-General for the ARRM and Atty Pantojan participated in a “moro-moro” to feign illness on the part of Andal Sr. to warrant his hospital arrest in Davao City. Another lawyer, a Public Prosecutor, Thadeus Samson, was allegedly paid by Andal Sr. 5 thousand pesos for every document that he would affix his signature to. At the latter part of the testimony, the ARMM Solicitor-General was said to have ordered the witness to lure Atty Pantojan into attending a meeting in Davao City where the lawyer would be killed and the blame would be pinned on the Mangundadatus.
Immediately after the hearing, my clients instructed me to immediately file disbarment proceedings against all three lawyers for unethical conduct. They also instructed me to make representations with the Anti-Money Laundering Council to open the accounts of the Ampatuans as clearly, if the testimony of the witness is true, the Ampatuans could not have afforded to distribute up to 400 million pesos even on the collective salaries of all the Ampatuans for all the government posts that they have been holding. I was also asked by my clients to coordinate with the public prosecutors so that all those implicated by the testimony of Lak should be indicted for their criminal acts.
My clients expressed elation at the fact that the trial is finally moving 10 months after the massacre. They specially expressed relief that GMA is no longer in power as according to them, the trial today that implicated very high officials of the Arroyo government could not have happened in the past dispensation. In any case, kudos to the whole nation for finally eliminating GMA and her cohorts from power thereby enabling the wheels of justice to finally turn, although very slowly at that.
The dispute over the Spratlys group of islands, a group of rocks and islets described in maritime maps as “dangerous grounds”, has become controversial anew like a sleeping monster rising from a temporary hiatus. Last month, the United States, which considers the islands and the waters around it as part of the high seas, warned China against acting unilaterally in resolving the dispute. The latter in turn retorted that the statement of the US was an interference with its internal affairs since it treated the Spratlys as part of its territory. For the first time, Indonesia, which is not even a claimant to the Spratlys, broke its silence and asked China to adopt a code of conduct on the Spratlys with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. I was in Singapore when the Strait Times correctly observed that Indonesia, normally a passive observer to this controversy, suddenly spoke up. The Strait Times opined that the significance of the Indonesian response was precisely because China now has bundled the Spratlys together with Tibet as its “internal affair”. In the case of Tibet, China has not hesitated in utilizing force in justifying its continued military occupation of the land of Dalai Lama. It was further reported that China , using a submarine, planted its flag in the disputed continental shelf of the Spratlys said to contain large deposits of oil and natural gas. China was guided by international law principles that recognized the raising of a flag in a desolate and unoccupied territory as an evidence of the exercise of sovereignty. Never mind of course that its planting of its flag in the soil and subsoil submerged by water is unprecedented in world history.
The Spratlys dispute is a disaster waiting to happen . P Noy needs to give priority to the settlement of this conflict under international law as clearly, we are no match to superpower China in the event of a military confrontation. Perhaps it is high time that the Philippines submit this dispute to international adjudication either before the International Court of Justice or the UN Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. Obviously, China’s recent flexing of its muscle on this dispute, after many years of bilateral and multilateral negotiations, is clear indication that the dispute could no longer be settled on the basis of negotiations. #30#