'Longstanding impunity': CHR scorns delayed justice in 2009 Maguindanao massacre

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2019 11:47 AM | Updated as of Nov 23 2019 08:01 PM

MANILA (UPDATE)- The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Saturday hit the "slow" judicial process in the country as the court has yet to release a verdict on the Maguindanao massacre case, a decade since the country's worst electoral violence and "deadliest single attack against the press."

The CHR "denounces the longstanding impunity surrounding the Maguindanao Massacre," its spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement released on the 10th year since the gruesome crime.

"The Maguindanao massacre is a resounding evidence of how the State fails to safeguard the right to life, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to information of its people," she said.

"Ten years without punishment for any of the perpetrators clearly indicates the failure of our justice system to deliver and function effectively," she said.

The case stemmed from the 2009 ambush of a convoy that was on its way to Shariff Aguak town to file the certificate of candidacy of then Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.

The attack left 58 people, including 32 journalists, killed, all buried in a shallow mass grave.

"The slow judicial process aggravates further the suffering of the victims’ families," the CHR said.

"Whatever the decision on this case will be, it will become a living testament of how our nation defines democracy and how it values human rights," it said.

Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman III called on the court to "finally put an end to this dark chapter in our history."

"Although I doubt it can take away the pain of what happened, but they can at least have closure with the conviction of those responsible for the gruesome crime," Hataman said in a statement.

On trial are alleged masterminds and perpetrators of the massacre, including members of the Ampatuan political clan, which purportedly wanted to preempt Mangudadatu's bid for the governorship that time.

Among those killed were Mangudadatu’s wife and 2 sisters, 12 other relatives and supporters, and 6 passersby.

The victims were mauled before they were shot to death execution-style, witnesses earlier told the court.

The backhoe used to dig the shallow mass grave where the bodies were dumped was left on a hilly portion of Sitio Masalay, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

Some 200 suspects, including members of the Ampatuan family - the Mangudadatu's rival political clan in Maguindanao - were charged with murder.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 was scheduled to release a decision this month, but Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes asked the Supreme Court for a 30-day extension of the deadline.

Solis-Reyes argued that the court needed more time to tackle the "the voluminous records of these cases which have now reached 238 volumes," including transcripts and the prosecution’s evidence.

The Supreme Court granted the request and slated the verdict on December 20.

Commemoration of the massacre were underway in different parts of the country Saturday.

Some journalists lit candles and offered prayers in front of the Press Freedom Monument in Cagayan de Oro City to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the massacre.

The group also condemned the processing of the case.