Friday, September 24, 2021

Journos enraged over bribery claims

WHILE state prosecutors handling the Maguindanao massacre cases are facing controversy anew over taking bribes, journalists in Northern Mindanao are disgusted on alleged corruption involving the former head of the prosecution panel Richard Anthony Fadullon and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III.

In a television report, Fadullon is on a bribe list that an unnamed source disclosed in the report earlier this week, while government witness Lakmodin Saliao accused Baraan of taking P20 million.

Private prosecutor Nena Santos separately claimed that the Ampatuans, the principal suspects in the massacre, had attempted to bribe prosecutors to around P300 million.

Jerry Orcullo, Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) chair, called for an "immediate and total overhaul" of the prosecution team panel.

"If heads must roll it, let it be. Let us not wait for the investigation who among the prosecution are guilty or not. Overhaul now so as to save the DOJ's rating to continually plummet to negative zero trust," Orcullo told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro via text message.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the College Editors' Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) had called for investigation on this matter.

"The allegations of the bribery with the Maguindanao Massacre prosecutors call for more investigation and more vigilance among the family of the victims and as well as with the media and the wide masses. This truly manifests on how inept justice could be served," said Rochamae Bihag, CEGP-Mindanao chair.

"It has to be investigated because this is part of the culture of impunity," said Pacifico Estore Jr., NUJP-Bukidnon chair.

The media considered this controversy as a new style of getting away from the core issue.

"We are enraged. Now we know why the delays even as we in the media continue our steadfast actions to show the world our vigilance and resoluteness to fight for justice and surmount attempts to delay, derail and tamper the truths with millions of money from the Ampatuans," said Orcullo.

"We must, at all times, be vigilant because this might be a new delaying tactics," said Estore.

‘Bribe of the century’

While the massacre has been labeled as crime of the century, Orcullo suggested to name this untoward incident the "bribery of the century."

"That Maguindanao massacre was a world infamy. The government must handle it with utmost care as the eyes of the [world] are focused on it. It was tragic as it happened and now a great shame as its prosecution is rocked with bribery scandal. If it is the crime of the century, can we call this the bribery of the century also?" he added.

In a report, Fadullon and Baraan met last Friday to discuss their course of legal action in light of the allegations.

Fadullon, who left the prosecution panel on March 9, 2011, also said the allegation was a "complete fabrication" for him to have been offered bribes as they were supposedly paid out months after he resigned from the case.

In a press briefing, DOJ secretary Leila de Lima earlier ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the bribery allegations.

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