ABS-CBN News

'Maguindanao massacre trial going in circles'

Posted at | Updated as of 11/24/11 12:51 AM

  • Victim's wife feels PNoy has neglected massacre victims
  • Palace hopes judiciary can fast-track trial

 

MANILA, Philippines - Monette Salaysay, wife of slain journalist Napoleon Salaysay, still cries herself to sleep when she remembers how her husband was killed along with 57 others in the Maguindanao massacre two years ago.

"Malungkot na malungkot po ako. Bihira yung gabi na hindi ako umiiyak. Naaalala ko talaga siya at habang tumatagal nami-miss ko siya," Salaysay told ANC's Headstart.

Salaysay said the pain and anger she felt remains two years after the massacre. Moving on is out of the question especially since those who perpetrated the massacre have yet to be convicted of the crime.

"Kahit kaunti hindi ko masasabi na natanggap ko na. Galit na galit ako sa mga pumatay hanggang ngayon. Kaya hindi ko mapigilan na every time mabanggit ang pangyayari, tumutulo talaga ang luha ko kahit na banggitin ko pa sa sarili ko na pipigilan ko pero hindi ko magawa dahil maramdaman ko pa yung sakit at yung galit naghahari sa puso ko lalo na wala pa kami nakamit na hustisya," she said.

Napoleon Salaysay is one of more than 30 journalists killed in the Maguindanao massacre on Nov. 23, 2009. A total of 57 bodies were recovered in a shallow grave on Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town while a 58th victim has yet to be recovered.

Prosecutors have identified 197 people responsible for the massacre, including members of the powerful Ampatuan clan. Two years after the massacre, over 100 suspects are still at large and at least one alleged conspirator, suspended ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, has yet to be arraigned.

Fending for herself, kids

After her husband's death, Salaysay said she was left to fend for herself and support their two children.

She said both kids reacted differently to the tragedy. Her first-born son, who is a special child, still asks about his father. The younger has kept mum about her feelings.

"I have a special child, the older child. He does not speak. He cannot manage himself, sinusubuan at binibihisan. Alam kong hindi niya alam ang nagyayari, hanggang ngayon nagtatanong pa rin," Salaysay said.

Salaysay said her biggest frustration with the massacre trial is the slow pace of justice.

"Nafi-feel ko lang sa kaso parang paikot ikot lang...Yung dating nagtestify ibalik ulit doon. Sana hindi maano si President (Aquino) sa akin pero nakita ko sa kanya napabayaan kami. Yun ang naramdaman ko," she said.

She also said the President must never forget that the victims of the massacre were defenseless when they were rounded up by the alleged private army of the Ampatuan clan and massacred in Barangay Salman.

"Wala silang kalaban laban. Basta dinampot, dinala sa bundok at pinatay. May nakahanda nang hukay. Sana Mister President maawa kayo sa amin. Para yung may magawa kayong tulong para mapabilis yung kaso, tulungan niyo po kami," she said.

No doubt about Ampatuans' guilt

Salaysay said there is no doubt in her mind that the Ampatuan clan is responsible for the massacre, based on the evidence and witnesses gathered by prosecutors.

She said that the amount of evidence is enough to convict former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, Andal Jr., who are accused of plotting and leading the massacre respectively.

"Wala namang dapat pagbintangan. Sila naman po, kahit dineny yan ng matanda, hindi kami maniniwala na hindi sila ang may gawa. Sila talaga. Hindi na mabago ang isip namin kahit ano pa ang sabihin. Hindi kami maniniwala na hindi sila ang may gawa dahil sobra-sobra ang ebidensya," she said.

She also noted that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should be punished for having an unwitting hand in the massacre. Salaysay and relatives of 14 massacre victim have filed a P15 million civil case against Arroyo.

Salaysay said Arroyo tolerated the private army of the Ampatuans and even provided the firearms. She said the former President tried to dissuade Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu from running as governor since she knew the Ampatuans' reputation.

Flawed legal system


Harry Roque, Salaysay's lawyer, said the country's legal system is not equipped to handle a case of this magnitude. He earlier said the Maguindanao massacre trial could last 55,000 years if the courts hear all the possible cases filed against the accused.

"My opinion is that our legal system is not enough to handle cases with these many victims and these many accused...It's been 2 years and the case is not moving. We have 197 accused, 93 captured and 64 arraigned. At least 60 prosecution witnesses already testified. Napakatagal pa talaga ang tatahakin para magkaroon ng closure ang mga biktima," he told radio dzMM.

Roque said he will ask the judge handling the Maguindanao massacre case to fast track the proceedings by pushing for the speedy resolution of cases involving the primary suspects.

Nena Santos, lawyer of the Mangudadatu clan, said she is convinced that the prosecution can present all its witnesses and evidence in the third year of the trial.

However, one cause for the delay is the strategy of the Ampatuan defense lawyers to stop some of the major witnesses from testifying.

Santos appealed to the public to continue to push for justice for the victims.

Salaysay said she will only find closure if the Ampatuans are finally convicted for the crime.

"Maparusahan sila. Yun lang inaasam-asam ko, ipinagdarasal ko. Na yung justice na inaasam namin ay sana makamit namin sa madaling panahon," she said.

Palace wants trial fast-tracked


Malacañang wants the trial of the Maguindanao massacre be speeded up and hopes that the judiciary can do something about it. 

“We would wish that the judicial process be fast-tracked. This case is not in the hands entirely of the executive branch or the prosecution. It is within the discretion of the trial judge, it is within the discretion of the judiciary. We ourselves in the prosecution, we ourselves in the executive branch, we share the public’s concern that this case is taking so long and we would hope that the judiciary would take a second look at the pace of the trial so that justice would be obtained within this term, within the administration of President Aquino,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.