Massacre case counsel drops client

August 16, 2019
Maguindanao Massacre

MAGUINDANAO massacre case principal accused Andal Ampatuan Jr.’s high-profile lawyer Raymund Fortun has withdrawn from the case.

In a two-page order, QCRTC Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes  granted Fortun’s motion to withdraw appearance as counsel for Ampatuan Jr. as the latter has the written conformity allowing his counsel to pull out of the case.

On August 9, Fortun formally asked the court to allow his law firm, Fortun and Santos Law Offices, to withdraw as counsel for Ampatuan due to personal reason.

In the same motion, Fortun asked the court to set the hearing of his motion on August 15, which was the last day of filing of the parties – the prosecution and defense – of their respective memoranda.

During the hearing of the motion on August 15, the prosecution through Prosecutor Moises Acayan, orally acknowledged that the nature of the withdrawal is personal between the client and the lawyer.

Acayan, however, expressed concern  “about the speedy disposition of the cases considering that today (Aug. 15) is the last day of filing of the accused memorandum.”

The prosecutor, nevertheless, sought that the cases be submitted for resolution pursuant to the court’s previous order.

In her order, Judge Reyes said that the court is in a quandary over the real motive in filing the withdrawal motion considering that after having been given several settings for the presentation of sub-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.

“But having in mind the well-settled rule that the withdrawal as counsel for a party with the client’s written conformity does not require the approval of the court to be effective, the Court rules to grant the relief being prayed for,” the court said.

Following the granting of the motion, the court directed Ampatuan to engage the services of another counsel.

For the meantime, the court appointed Atty. Armando Cura as counsel de oficio of the accused.

Atty. Fortun took over as counsel of Ampatuan in September 2016, replacing his brother, Atty. Sigfrid Fortun.

Ampatuan together with more 90 other accused are now awaiting decision on the multiple murders charges against them in connection with the killing of 58 people, including 32 members of the media, that took place in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.