MANILA - Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday lauded the guilty verdict for the Maguindanao massacre masterminds, adding that the acquittal of other suspects was "expected."
Datu Andal Unsay Ampatuan Jr, Zaldy Ampatuan, Anwar Ampatuan, Sr. were sentenced to reclusion perpetua for plotting the killing of 58 people who joined a convoy that was going to file candidacy papers of then-gubernatorial candidate Esmael 'Toto' Mangudadatu in Maguindanao province in 2009.
"Today is the day we have waited and I am very happy as secretary of Justice that finally, justice has been served," Guevarra said.
After ten years of proceedings, the court acquitted other members of the once-powerful political clan, along with some of their alleged gunmen over prosecution's "failure to prove their guilt" beyond reasonable doubt.
"We know from the beginning where our strength lies and where certain gaps in our evidence exist so this is something more or less expected," Guevarra said.
Despite several acquittals, Guevarra congratulated state and private prosecutors for their "tireless effort" in pursuing the decade-long case.
"I thank the prosecutors as well as the private prosecutors who are involved in this case for the tireless effort that they exerted in making sure that judgment will finally come and the deaths of so many victims including members of the journalism profession will find their day of redemption," he said.
"We're happy with the decision of the court. We trust that the judge has very extensively examined the evidence and we trust in her impartiality in her rendition of this very important judgment," he said.
Family members of the carnage's victims earlier said they prayed for a "100 percent" guilty verdict.
"Gusto ko nga talagang bitay, lalo na yang si (Datu) Unsay (Ampatuan Jr.) pati magkakapatid dahil talagang grabe ginagawa nila," said Maguindanao Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangundadatu, the province’s former governor who lost his wife and 2 sisters in the mass murder.
The victims were brought to the hilly village of Sitio Masalay in Ampatuan town where they were shot to death and buried in a shallow grave.
The conviction of some of the accused will not "totally eradicate" the pain, said Eden Ridao, the wife of a passerby who was killed in the massacre.
"Kahit papano, maibsan (Somehow it would ease), but definitely, not totally eradicate our pain," she said.