'Culture of impunity' won't end with Maguindanao massacre decision, says UP law prof

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2019 11:17 AM

MANILA - The "culture of impunity" will not end even if the alleged masterminds of the Maguindanao massacre are convicted, University of the Philippines law professor Theodore Te said on Thursday.

"I don't think so. It's a big step towards that. One decision by itself cannot do it," Te said on ANC's Headstart.

The long wait is almost over for the families of 58 people killed on November 23, 2009 as the court hearing the case is set to render its verdict on Thursday. 

Of those killed and buried in a hilltop grave were 32 journalists. They were with a group of people on the way to file election documents of the Ampatuan clan's rival, then-gubernatorial candidate and now-House Rep. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, when they were stopped and then massacred.

Facing verdicts are 101 out of a total 197 accused, charged with 58 counts of murder, 1 for every person killed in the massacre. 

Of the 101 accused due for sentencing, 90 are detained while 11 are out on bail. Eighty other suspects, including 15 bearing the surname Ampatuan, are still at large.

"It has to be a consistent pattern of being able to apprehend those who have committed crimes or felonies, being able to try them, being able to convict them, and being able to have the sentence executed," explained Te.

The former spokesperson of the Supreme Court added that Thursday’s verdict is not the end of the entire case but rather the start of another stage in the judicial process.

"This is the start of another long process because they will go up [to higher courts]. Those who have been convicted will go up on appeal and that will take again a matter of years assuming that at the end of this process, the Supreme Court affirms the conviction and then they go back down to have the sentence executed."