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‘Drama’ over for feuding Ampatuans

/ 04:23 AM February 23, 2012

Former ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan. AFP FILE PHOTO

Together again?

Last year, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan offered to testify against his own father and brother in the Maguindanao massacre.

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This time around, they’ll be sharing the same defense lawyer.

Sigfrid Fortun, the defense counsel of Ampatuan clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Andal Jr., on Wednesday said that his firm would soon also be handling Zaldy’s defense after the latter’s lawyer, Redemberto Villanueva, withdrew his firm’s appearance as the former ARRM governor’s lead counsel.

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Fortun also confirmed in a text message Wednesday that his law firm would be replacing Villanueva.

When asked if Zaldy was on good terms with his father and brother, Fortun said, “Yes.”

It was private prosecutor Prima Quinsayas, legal counsel of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, who raised the matter during the hearing of the massacre case Wednesday at the Quezon City regional trial court.

Lawyer’s letter

Quinsayas said her office received the letter from Villanueva informing her that he was withdrawing as Zaldy’s lead counsel.

“But what was curious was that it was contained inside an envelope of Fortun, Narvasa and Salazar (Fortun’s law firm),” Quinsayas said.

The February 10 letter from Villanueva said he was withdrawing as lead counsel but would remain collaborating counsel for Zaldy, she added.

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Quinsayas said her office also received Zaldy’s reply to the comment of prosecutors to his motion for reconsideration at the Court of Appeals.

The ARMM governor had gone to the appellate court to challenge the Department of Justice order charging him for the massacre. Because of this pending motion, he has yet to be arraigned as a defendant in the massacre case.

“So we wanted to know if (Fortun’s) law firm was already taking over as his lead counsel,” Quinsayas said.

No formal notice

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes replied that the court had yet to receive a formal notice from Fortun who was not present at Wednesday’s hearing.

In a TV interview in July 2011, Zaldy offered to become a state witness in the massacre case and even hinted that he was prepared to testify against his father, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., and brother, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Amptuan Jr.

He also alleged that former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, were involved in election cheating during the 2007 senatorial elections.

However, prosecutors even at that time were doubtful that Zaldy would go against his father and siblings although he was transferred from the fourth floor to the third floor of the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig, supposedly to keep him away from the other Ampatuans.

Muddling the case

“It’s a game plan to muddle the case. If these were true, the (camp of Andal Sr. and Andal Jr.) would already be reacting. But there’s no reaction. What does this mean? It’s drama,” said private prosecutor Nena Santos.

“He’s a desperate person testing the waters to see in what cases can he be absolved … And in the Muslim tradition, going against your father is a big no-no. You’d rather die. But go against the father? Never,” she added.

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TAGS: ARMM, Crime, Justice, law, Maguindanao massacre, Zaldy Ampatuan
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