MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - The wife of a journalist who was among those slain in the Ampatuan massacre in 2009 has sought political asylum in Hong Kong.
Myrna Reblando, widow of slain Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro "Bong" Reblando, in now in Hong Kong in fear for her life because she believes that the government can no longer protect her.
Several witnesses in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 57 people, including 32 journalists, have been killed one by one.
Reblando thanked the Hong Kong government for protecting her and attending to her personal needs during a speech she delivered before the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC).
In response, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima urged Reblando to return to Philippines and promised to ensure her safety.
However, she said the government can't prevent Reblando from seeking refuge in Hong Kong.
"I'm not sure what ground she can invoke and substantiate," de Lima said. "In any case, may I appeal to her to reconsider and give our government and its various legal mechanisms a chance to work in favor of attaining justice for the massacre victims and keeping witnesses safe."
Meantime, President Aquino said he understands why Myrna Reblando has chosen to stay in Hong Kong.
But he said the administration cannot be accused of not working to attain justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.
“Malaki naman talaga ang dinaanan ni Mrs. Reblando. At talagang meron namang frustration sa bagal ng ating sistema ng hudikatura. Mabigat talaga ‘yung kaso sa dami ng akusado; sa daming prosesong kailangang daanin. Over a hundred ‘yung akusado diyan e sa particular na kasong ‘yan. So may preliminary investigation for all of them. Meron ‘yung mga pag-a-arraign sa lahat sa kanila. Meron ding pagdadakip doon sa mga nawawala pa rin, hindi pa nahuhuli sa kasalukuyan. May mga anak siya, may pamilya siyang kailangan na buhayin at meron naman sigurong normalcy na gustong mangyari sa buhay niya. At hindi perpekto ‘yung ginagawa natin pero palagay ko naman walang makakasabing nagkukulang tayo sa paghahabol ng katarungan.”
On the security of the witness and families of the victims, President Aquino said they cannot be forced to avail of the Witness Protection Program.
“…Meron ring karapatan na tumanggi na mapasailalim doon sa WPP ‘yung mga testigo. Pwede nating pakiusapan… Pero sa dulo nito, may malaya silang desisyon at may karapatan silang mag-desisyon nang malaya sa kung anong palagay nilang angkop sa kanilang sitwasyon,” he said. -- with reports from Willard Cheng, Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News