Palace says justice served 11 years after Maguindanao massacre; victims' kin say fight not over

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2020 05:24 PM

Palace says justice served 11 years after Maguindanao massacre; victims' kin say fight not over 1
Press freedom and human rights advocates protest outside Camp Bagong Diwa on the day of the verdict on the Maguindanao Massacre on Dec. 19, 2019. The PNP recently confiscated a mural on press freedom that was placed near the gate. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Malacañang said Monday justice has been served 11 years after the Maguindanao massacre, even as relatives of the country's worst political slaughter kept up their legal battle against suspects. 

Several members of the Ampatuan clan last year were found guilty of orchestrating the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

"Nakamit na po ang hustisya sa ilalim ng administrasyong Duterte. At least po, nakakulong na ngayon iyong magkapatid na Ampatuan," he told reporters. 

(Justice was achieved under the Duterte administration. At least, the Ampatuan brothers are now imprisoned.)

"Ito po ay katarungan na rin para sa mga biktima at kamag-anak ng mga namatay," said Roque, a former prosecutor in the Maguindanao massacre case. 

(This is also justice for the victims and their relatives.) 

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On Nov. 23, 2009, the "private army" of the Ampatuans allegedly blocked a convoy of mostly female supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, who were on their way to register his candidacy for governor, challenging one of the Ampatuans. 

Some 100 armed men mauled 58 people, including 32 journalists, and then killed them execution style. They were buried in a shallow grave on a hill in Ampatuan town. 

In December last year, Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes found guilty 43 people, including brothers Zaldy and Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr., 14 police officers and a member of the Ampatuan militia. Some 53 defendants were acquitted, while 80 accused remain at large. 

However, the Supreme Court has yet to render a final judgement, said lawyer Nena Santos, who represents a number of families of the victims of the massacre.

“Fight is not yet over… Until a final decision of the Supreme Court on the matter is released and has attained finality, that’s the only time we can say the case is finally resolved,” she said in a virtual forum earlier Wednesday.

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Santos said her camp was still facing enormous challenge because 76 of those accused remained at large while the victims’ families and witnesses were subjected to threats, bribes, and harassment.

She also bared that only 8 out of 48 more suspects in the second wave of complaints filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) were recommended charged.

The defendants include those who were involved in the cover-up, who shot the victims and who were present in the massacre site, Santos said.

"May mga suspek pa rin po na hanggang ngayon ay nakakatakas," Roque said in his briefing. "Ngunit mahuhuli rin po iyan at papanagutin sa ilalim ng ating batas." 

(There are still suspects who walk free, but they will be caught and held accountable under our law.)