1. DOJ chief told: go slow vs Ampatuans
MANILA, Philippines -- Acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera has indicated that she is being pressured to go slow in pinning down members of the Ampatuan clan in connection with the Maguindanao massacre.
Devanadera, the concurrent solicitor-general, said a person whom she refused to identify relayed to her a message asking her to take it easy in prosecuting the members of the influential Maguindanao clan.
“They were asking that the Ampatuans not be pinned down,” Devanadera told reporters in a news conference.
Asked who sent the message, Devanadera said: “That’s just for me to know.”
Devanadera said all the judges in the Cotabato City regional trial court have gone on leave. Asked if they were afraid to handle the case against Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the prime suspect in the massacre, the justice secretary said: “Officially, they are on leave.”
Devanadera suggested that judges and prosecutors with jurisdiction over the killings in Maguindanao took leaves of absence in consideration of their safety.
“They also received messages. Text messages. Information relayed to them,” Devanadera said.Devanadera said she appointed the City Prosecutor of General Santos, Edilberto Jamora, to handle the gathering of evidence and the filing of cases before the courts.
Asked if it was safe to assume that the judges also received the same threats, Devanadera said: “Yes.”
Devanadera said the filing of murder charges against Andal, Jr., before a Cotabato City judge was done with heightened security.
She has asked the Supreme Court to transfer the venue of the trial against Ampatuan to Manila.
source: the inquirer
2. Ampatuans want trial in Cotabato City
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – (UPDATE) The family of Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. wants his trial for the Maguindanao massacre to be held in this city and claims it would be too much of a financial burden on them if the trial were held in Manila.
Lawyer Phillip Pantojan, one of the lead counsels of Andal Jr., the prime suspect in the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people, said a transfer of venue would be too costly for the accused and his witnesses.
“We want no transfer of trial. We want it in Cotabato City. It would be a financial burden for the Ampatuans if we will make the trial in Manila,” he told the Inquirer by phone.
In a one page-letter, citing security reasons, Devanadera asked Chief Justice Reynato Puno to "transfer the case to any court in Manila or Quezon City."
Devanadera said witnesses are afraid to go to court if the trial will be in Cotabato. She added that judges in Cotabato are also on leave.
While the multiple murder charges are being filed against Andal Jr. at the Hall of Justice here, the military prevented the Ampatuans from leaving their homes in Shariff Aguak town.
Motorists coming to this city were prevented by the military from traveling along a highway a few kilometers away from Ampatuan mansions....Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Ponce, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, denied that they were prohibiting commuters, media and health workers from using a highway.
read more @ inquirer
3. US suspends projects in Maguindanao
MANILA, Philippines—The United States has indefinitely suspended its development projects in Maguindanao in the aftermath of the massacre in the province due to security concerns, US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney said Wednesday night.
At least 64 people, including at least 32 journalists, were shot dead by militiamen allegedly on orders of Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. on November 23.
“Yes, we have suspended it, but only in Maguindanao. I don’t want any of our employees to get hurt. I think it’s normal when you have a massacre like that and you don’t know who’s behind it or what happened,” Kenney told reporters at the sidelines of the Christmas lighting at the US embassy in Manila.
“I don’t want to put a time on it because we want it done right. Of course, we all want the investigation and the prosecution to be done quickly, fairly and thoroughly,” she added.
These projects include building classrooms, school libraries, roads, and boat landing areas, and putting up solar panels.
Other US projects in Mindanao, she added, continue as they are more vital now than ever. [i wonder what they are???? - ed.]
“So as soon as it looks like it’s safe, we will be back at work. I don’t want to suspend them for any longer than necessary,” she stressed.
Describing the massive assault as amazing and of horrific proportions, she urged the Philippine government not to allow it to happen again. She said such incidents have no place in a civilized country like the Philippines.
“I’m not an expert (who can identify) on what to field to have the right kind of security situation, but it’s clear that the government should make sure it can never happen again,” Kenney said when asked about her views on suggestions to put Maguindanao under martial law.
“What’s most important is that they investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice. You’re a civilized country. You can’t have this kind of occurrence. It’s something you could have never imagined,” she added.
source: global nation