Palace, CHR, hope for justice for Maguindanao massacre victims

Arianne Merez and Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 17 2019 03:51 PM | Updated as of Dec 17 2019 05:04 PM

MANILA - Malacañang and the Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday expressed hopes that families of the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre will finally get justice as the court is set to hand down its ruling on the worst election-related violence in Philippine history and the single deadliest attack against journalists in the world.

“The court will decide on the basis of evidence and we hope that justice will be given to the parties especially the prosecution,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters on Tuesday.

“Regardless of whose administration, justice should always prevail,” he added.

The ruling is expected to be handed down on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 19, at the Metro Manila District Jail Annex 2, a facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, where some of the accused are held. 

Several members of the powerful Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao are charged with organizing the Nov. 23, 2009 mass murder that left 58 people dead, including 32 journalists, in a bid to stop an election rival from challenging their stronghold on the province.

Panelo, who briefly served as defense lawyer of prime suspect Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr. in 2014, said he could not attend the promulgation of the ruling due to conflict in his schedule.

Aside from Ampatuan Jr., 100 others out of the 197 accused are awaiting sentence following a decade-long trial on multiple murder charges. 

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said the agency has been longing for justice for the massacre victims. 

The CHR, then under chairperson Leila de Lima, was one of the agencies that responded through fact-finding investigations immediately after the incident on November 23, 2009.

”Umaasa tayo na sa Thursday, talaga naman ito na ang senyales na makakamit na finally ng mga biktima ang hustisya na matagal na nilang inaasam,” de Guia said.

(We are hoping that on Thursday, this will be the sign that the victims will finally get the justice their families have long been waiting for.)

The CHR, meanwhile, lamented that 10 years after the killings, journalists are still under threat from various fronts.

“Nakakalungkot kasi (It's sad because) the Maguindanao massacre really was the pivotal event where we saw that our journalists underwent tremendous pain and suffering, it cost them their lives and then years after, they still continue to bear the brunt of that attack and in fact it contributed to the climate of impunity,” de Guia said.