Raymond Fortun quits as Andal Ampatuan’s lawyer just when Maguindanao Massacre trial heads to finish line

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High-profile abogado Raymond Fortun and his law firm have withdrawn as counsels of alleged Maguindanao Massacre mastermind Andal Ampatuan, Jr., just when the trial is about to finish.

Fortun and Santos Law Offices filed the motion for withdrawal on July 29, the last day when Ampatuan was supposed to submit his memorandum, the last pleading that would contain all arguments against the presented evidence before the multiple murder case is submitted for decision.

In a 2-page order, Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QCRTC) Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes granted the motion since Ampatuan had a written conformity consenting to Fortun’s withdrawal.

But, Solis-Reyes couldn’t help but wonder about the timing and purpose of the move, since it came after many delaying tactics by the defense.

“The court is in a quandary as to the real motive in filing the said motion considering that after having been given several settings for the presentation of sur-rebuttal evidence and filing of motions one after the other that resulted in the unnecessary delay of proceedings, the accused counsel filed the motion and had set it for hearing on the last day of filing of the parties’ respective memoranda pursuant to the July 29, 2019 order of the court,’’ read the order.

Still, the judge noted that a lawyer’s withdrawal with the client’s conformity “does not require the approval of the court to be effective” as a well-settled rule.

The court directed Ampatuan to engage the services of another counsel. For now, it appointed Armando Cura as his counsel de officio.

Ampatuan is the primary suspect accused of masterminding the massacre in an attempt to prevent political rival Esmael Mangudadatu from filing his certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor.

The massacre of 58 persons, including 32 media workers, was one of the worst election-related incidents and press killings in history.

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