MANILA— The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has heeded the appeal of stakeholders to reclassify the 2009 Ampatuan massacre as an unresolved case despite a court ruling finding several accused guilty of the gruesome killings.
UNESCO acknowledged the letter sent by stakeholders composed of relatives of the slain journalists, media groups, civil society organizations and concerned individuals on September 12 expressing concern over UNESCO’s assessment that the massacre was “resolved” following the court’s guilty verdict on 43 people, including members of the powerful Ampatuan family.
The stakeholders said the Ampatuan case is far from as over as some of the members of the Ampatuan family have filed their appeals. Several members of the political clan are tagged as masterminds behind the murders.
Meanwhile, other suspects remain at large.
“UNESCO learned in early September 2020 that, in this particular case, appeals have been launched. Based on this new information, the legal cases concerned will, therefore, be maintained as “ongoing/unresolved” in the UNESCO Observatory of killed journalists, as well as in the upcoming “Director-General’s Report on Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity” until such a moment when a final verdict is reached by the Philippine judicial system,” read a letter signed by UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Xing Qu on Sept. 24, 2020.
The group also said that UNESCO's earlier assessment of the case has been used as an achievement by the Duterte administration despite attacks against the media including the shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN.
Grace Morales of JUSTICE NOW, the organization of families of the 32 slain journalists, thanked all those who helped and supported them as they continue to fight for justice.
"Thank you din po sa walang-sawang pagbabantay. Naging magaan po ang laban dahil po sa inyo. Mabuhay po ang malayang pamamahayag!!! We will never forget," Morales said.
The November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre left 58 people dead, including 32 journalists.
The group was ambushed by around a hundred armed men on their way to Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy of then Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.