MANILA - Body parts filled a three-story funeral home in General Santos City following the Maguindanao massacre in November 2009, the justice secretary at that time said on Thursday, the day of the verdict.
Fifty-eight people, including 32 journalists were killed on Nov. 23, 2009 when the private army of the Ampatuan clan ambushed a convoy that was on its was on its way to file election papers of a rival, Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu. It was considered the worst political attack in the country.
Relatives prayed as they viewed the remains of their kin behind a glass window, said former justice secretary Agnes Devanadera.
"Naaalala ko may mag-asawang nakaluhod, nagdadasal. Yung iba naman nakaupo. Makikita mo yung lungkot, hapis sa mga mukha," she told radio DZMM. "Iyong isa, ang pinagdadasalan niya kamay kasi iyon na lang ang nakuha."
(I remember there was a couple kneeling, praying. Some were seated. You can see the sadness in their faces. One was praying over a hand because it was all that was recovered.)
"Hindi mo na kakayanin umiyak kasi masa-shock ka na lang. Three floors yun, floor by floor ganun ang scenario."
(You can't manage to cry, you're just shocked. All three floors had the same scenario.)
Devanadera said the families were "withdrawn" and "hopeless" as they thought their relatives would be safe from an attack because they were accompanied by press and most were female.
"Kaya sila withdrawn na withdrawn, they thought they were protected kasi may mga kasama silang taga-gobyerno. Hindi nila ineexpect," she said.
(They were withdrawn, they thought they were protected because they were accompanied by government officials. They didn't expect it.)
"Doon parang ano bang magagawa ko, wala nang mga buhay. Anong magagawa ko sa mga taong ito, ni ayaw ngang makipagusap sa gobyerno. But anyway we have to proceed, hinarap ko na lang. I must do what I have to do which is investigation."
(It's like what can I do, they're already lifeless. What can I do for these people who don't want to talk to government? But anyway we have to proceed, I faced it. I must do what I have to do which is investigation.)