By Julius D. Mariveles
THE LEAD COUNSEL of several alleged masterminds in the Ampatuan Massacre case said that his withdrawal as one of the defense counsels was caused by what he foresaw as a “potential conflict.”
Lawyer Sigfrid Fortun, however, told the PCIJ that his decision will not in any way delay the proceedings of the case that is nearing its fifth year.
“It is impossible because as we speak there are already new counsels; we will make certain that the transfer of all exhibits and evidence is seamless and we are in fact briefing (the new lawyers) on what to highlight and what to focus on,” he said.
When asked why he decided to withdraw, Fortun said, “I was advised of a situation where one of them would take a position contrary to the position of others and since I represent all of them, I am now conflicted.”
He did not elaborate.
(Watch the 2011 PCIJ interview with Atty. Fortun, excerpt from the documentary “Maguindanao Isang Taon”)
Fortun withdrew as counsel for Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the alleged masterminds of the massacre, last May this year. The Philippine Star reported that the Fortun Narvasa and Salazar law firm to which Fortun belongs filed yesterday a withdrawal of appearance signed by senior partner Gregorio Narvasa II before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 that is hearing the case.
The firm represents two other principal accused, Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, Andal Jr.
Fifty-eight people were killed, 32 of them journalists and media workers, on November 23, 2009 in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao province in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. The victims were part of a convoy about to deliver the certificate of a candidacy of then candidate for governor Esmael Mangudadatu.
The incident is now considered the single deadliest attack on journalists.