Kin of slain journalists fear return of acquitted, at large Maguindanao massacre suspects

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2019 08:13 PM | Updated as of Dec 19 2019 08:43 PM

Kin of slain journalists fear return of acquitted, at large Maguindanao massacre suspects 1
Convicted prisoners from the Maguindanao Massacre trial are seen on board the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) bus enroute to Muntinlupa on December 19, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News.

MANILA - Jay Mark Jhoy Duhay was only 10 when his father Jhoy, a journalist from Gold Star Daily, was among those killed in what is now known as the brutal Maguindanao massacre, considered the worst political violence in the Philippines.

A decade later, Jay Mark traveled to Camp Bagong Diwa to listen to the words that he and other grieving families have always longed to hear: Ampatuan, guilty.

“Parang 'yung durog na durog ay nabuo ulit. Parang may nabunot na tinik,” he said.

(As if what was broken was made whole again. Like a thorn in my side was pulled.)

Members of the Ampatuan clan -- namely Datu Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan, Jr., Datu Zaldy "Puti" Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Sr., Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Jr., and Datu Anwar Sajid Ampatuan -- and several others were found guilty of multiple murder in the Maguindanao massacre. They were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

At a press conference after the handing down of the verdict on the massacre, family members of some of the 32 slain journalists also expressed a weary kind of joy over finally getting 3 of the 5 principal accused members of the Ampatuan clan convicted.

Fear remained after some of the Ampatuan clan had been acquitted, and with 80 more of the accused still at large.

“Nasa Mindanao lang sila. Nasa Mindanao din kami,” said 26-year old Joseph Decena, son of slain journalist Noel Decena. 

(They're in Mindanao. We're also in Mindanao.)

The families said authorities must expedite the search for the remaining 80, and also to keep an eye on those acquitted, who still supposedly enjoyed power and influence in the area.

Community of journalists

Kin of the slain journalists also thanked the community of newsmen who supported them in their now decade-long ordeal, especially the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). 

NUJP Chair Nonoy Espina emphasized that the victory was only partial, because those who were responsible for the massacre were actors of the state in different capacities - from elected officials to police personnel.

Rachel Pastores, who was part of the prosecution panel, however said Thursday’s verdict was still a major victory, and a demonstration that ordinary folk could bring down a powerful clan for their abuses.

One left behind

Grace Morales, wife of slain Rosell Morales and sister of slain Maritess Cablitas, expressed pain for the family of Reynaldo Momay - the journalist who was said to have been part of the convoy, but whose body was never found. 

Momay was named the 58th victim, but in Thursday's verdict, the accused were only convicted of 57 counts of murder.

Maria Reynafe Momay - presently in the United States - sent a message to the group which they read to the audience: 

“‪I need justice for my dad. Kung hindi kumpleto ang numero, hindi ‬kumpleto ang hustisya (If the number's not complete, justice also isn't).”