Settlement by victims’ kin not binding on court – De Lima

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—It is morally and legally wrong for relatives of the victims in the Maguindanao massacre to negotiate with those responsible for the most heinous crime in Philippine history, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said Tuesday.

She said even if the kin of the victims issued any waiver or desistance against the accused, “at this point will not be binding on the court. And the DoJ prosecutors will never support such moves.”

“Any compromise in a criminal case can only affect the civil liability but not the criminal liability of the accused,” De Lima explained.

“Any waiver of criminal liability is against public policy, hence, null and void,” De Lima said.

She said that the only exceptions are in the prosecution of the crimes of adultery, concubinage, seduction, abduction, rape and acts of lasciviousness where pardon by the offended party precludes prosecution.

De Lima said she understands the sentiment of the victims’ families vis-à-vis the pace of the trial.

“But they know that, while slow, the proceedings continue to move and progress. They should resist temptations for monetary settlement from the accused.”

“If I may be very straightforward about it, it would be both legally and morally wrong for them to settle with those responsible for the most heinous crime in Philippine history,” De Lima said in a text message to reporters.

“May I stress further that the Maguindanao massacre case is more than the private interests of the victims and their families but one which is imbued with deep public interest. It cannot and should not be bargained away for any amount of money,” she added.

On Monday, lawyer Harry Roque revealed that 14 kin of media victims in the Maguindanao massacre have agreed to negotiate for a settlement with the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuans, including former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., his son former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan, former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., former Shariff Aguak mayor Datu Anwar Ampatuan, former vice governor Datu Sajid Ampatuan and former Mamasapano mayor Akmad Ampatuan were the principal accused in the massacre case where 58 people were killed including 32 media workers.

“Under the scheme, the victims were to sign not just a waiver and a quitclaim but also an affidavit pinning the blame for the massacre on Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu,” Roque said adding that they were not informed of the deal but they got wind of it through sources.

The written authority to negotiate for a settlement was signed last February.

He said the deal prompted them to seek redress with the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

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