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De Lima and Brillantes are taking us for fools

Just who is Norie Unas whose testimony against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo our justice secretary swears by, the Commission on Elections chief very distastefully boasts will put her in jail by Christmas, and the presidential spokesperson claims is “very solid evidence”?

When they presented Unas to media Oct. 3 as a “new witness” against Macapagal-Arroyo, Leila de Lima and Sixto Brillantes introduced him as if he were just some bureaucrat from the boondocks, “the Provincial Administrator of Maguindanao.”

That’s like identifying Heinrich Himmler as once a German Interior Minister, without mentioning that he was the brains and executor of the Holocaust.  A hyperbole that may be, but just as Himmler with his gas chambers mechanized the murder of six million Jews, Unas ordered the mechanization in digging the mass grave for 57 people, including at least 32 journalists, cold-bloodedly murdered in November 2009, purportedly upon orders of his boss Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son.

According to Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose wife was among the victims, Unas ordered the provincial government’s tractor backhoe be deployed to the killing field so that the corpses could be swiftly and deeply buried and hidden.

The provincial administrator from 2001 to 2009 when Ampatuan Sr. was governor, Unas is the Ampatuan family’s underboss and consiglieri rolled into one. “Norie Unas is the master spinner of the mind of Ampatuan Sr. and he was the “little governor,” Mangudadatu in conniption after the De Lima-Brillantes press conference told reporters. “He was part of the planning (of the massacre). He’s Ampatuan Sr.’s brains,” he said.

Two witnesses reported that Unas was with the Ampatuans in the family rest house on that fateful morning as they oversaw the operations for the massacre.  Another witness claimed Unas ordered him to clean up the scene of the massacre. Still another claimed that Unas the next day was laughing with other Ampatuan goons as they boasted of the “successful” operation.

How close is Unas to Ampatuan Sr.? He voluntarily joined his boss in jail when Ampatuan was arrested in the mid-1990s.  Ampatuan very rarely went to his office in the nine years he was governor.  Unas manned it, and would go to Ampatuan’s residence in the evening to report to the warlord.

Who Unas really is is common knowledge in Mindanao, and De Lima and Brillantes—the late Fernando Poe Jr.’s election lawyer—certainly know who he is.  They are taking us for fools, thinking that the Manila-based political class would not know him from Adam, and would swallow hook, line and sinker everything he says against Arroyo.

They didn’t even bother to explain how this warlord’s deputy had a miraculous spiritual transformation to join the crusade against poll fraud.  Two obvious non-supernatural reasons for Unas to bear false witness:

First, a lawyer for the massacre victims disclosed that charges were just about to be filed to include Unas among the accused in the gruesome massacre case.    However, once the justice secretary takes him into the Witness Protection Program, Section 8 of Republic Act No.  6891 entitles him to “a secure housing facility” for the duration of the case in which he is a witness, or when there is no longer a threat against him.  That means that while the Ampatuans and their accomplices rot in Muntinlupa,  Unas can stay in his mansions in Maguindanao for the duration of the poll case against Arroyo, claiming that these make up  the “secure housing facility” under the law.  And it will be so easy to slip away through the country’s backdoor that is Mindanao.

A second reason is utterly outrageous.  Unas is a factotum who, if ordered by Ampatuan to jump from a building, would just ask what floor to jump from.   The suspicion is that the Ampatuans had struck a deal with De Lima and Brillantes, that through some deliberate bungling by the justice secretary’s prosecutors, they would be acquitted—in exchange for Unas’ false testimony against Arroyo.

De Lima and Brillantes are not only taking us not only for fools, but nincompoops with very short memories. It was just a month ago that another Ampatuan son, Zaldy, volunteered to testify against Arroyo just as Unas is doing now, which many suspected would be in exchange for his and his father’s acquittal. The outrage against Zaldy’s plot though was swift, with my colleague Conrado de Quiros calling the plot a “monstrosity.”

De Lima backpedaled on that plan.  But now she and Brillantes think that we and media are ignoramuses since “Unas” doesn’t ring a bell and isn’t identified with the Ampatuans.

“First, it was Zaldy.  And now, it’s Unas. What is this? It’s like they’re doing this piecemeal for the Ampatuans,” Mangudadatu said.

Why would De Lima agree to such unconscionable deal that spits on the graves of the 57 Maguindanao massacre victims?

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda inadvertently demonstrated that De Lima might be just following orders.  Hours after De Lima presented Unas to media, Lacierda in his regular press briefing indicated his intimate knowledge about this plot against Arroyo, and tried to bamboozle reporters with his fractured legalese, saying, “Under the rules of evidence, (Unas’) personal knowledge is a very strong evidence.”

Are they so frenzied in their bloodlust against Arroyo that that they would let off the hook the masterminds of the monstrous Maguindanao massacre just to concoct allegations against her?  Are they panicking that President Aquino wouldn’t be able to make good his boast that cases will be filed against Arroyo by next month?

And what is Unas’ earth-shaking testimony?  He overheard Arroyo ordering the poll fraud.