MANILA, Philippines - A lawyer for a prominent member of the Ampatuan clan said yesterday he will oppose a new freeze order on the assets of his client’s family.
“We will have it lifted,” Paris Real said in a text message to The STAR, but declined to elaborate.
Real represents Sajid Ampatuan, a son of clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. and one of the principal suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, wherein 57 people – including 32 journalists – were killed.
On Friday, a Manila court issued a new freeze order on the 597 bank accounts, 142 firearms, 132 motor vehicles and 113 houses and lots in the names of 27 members of the Ampatuan clan and their associates.
The order was released after the previous freeze order issued by Court of Appeals lapsed that same day.
Several media groups have criticized “the unwarranted delay and apparent lack of attention” that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) accorded the case.
Palace defends agencies
Malacañang yesterday brushed aside insinuations the government has not been doing its job to freeze the bank accounts of the Ampatuans.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the OSG, led by Solicitor General Jose Cadiz, obtained a freeze order the day before the first freeze order expired Friday last week.
“Despite the attempt made by the Ampatuan side (to withdraw money), they failed to withdraw sums of money from the bank concerned. So that doesn’t matter,” he told reporters in a briefing.
Lacierda clarified that “the President was not disappointed” even if the first freeze order from the Court of Appeals had expired, noting that a Preservation Asset Protection Order (PAPO) was obtained from the Manila regional trial court.
“The result was they (Ampatuans) failed to get it (money) and it is not because we were delayed in filing a motion. This was done, you must remember, that this was done ex-parte,” he said.
Lacierda said they “needed to make sure that the PAPO, the filing of the motion, would be timed in a manner that it will not create a situation where they would be able to be apprised of a formal motion to maintain that asset preservation order.”
The six-month CA freeze order was based on the petition of the AMLC that covered 597 bank accounts, 142 firearms, 132 motor vehicles, and 113 houses and lots in the names of 27 members of Ampatuan clan and their associates.
The AMLC only filed a petition for civil forfeiture with a prayer for a new freeze order with Manila regional trial court Thursday last week, according to a joint statement by several media groups.
The media groups said that a week ahead of the expiry of the appellate court’s freeze order, they called government attention to the issue and the possibility that members of the Ampatuans could take the delay as a chance to retake control of their unexplained wealth and use it to affect their trial for the massacre.
After two years, only two of the main suspects from the Ampatuan clan who have been tagged in the killings have been arraigned. The key suspect in the massacre, Andal Ampatuan Jr., has not been arraigned for trial.
Of the 196 total suspects, only 93 have been detained for trial.
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