'This is justice': Palace touts rule of law in decade-long Maguindanao massacre case

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2019 02:03 PM

Jergin Dela Cruz Malabanan, daughter of one of the journalists killed in the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre in southern Philippines, speaks to the media before the promulgation of the case in Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, December 19, 2019. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA- "This is justice."

After a decade of wait, the rule of law prevailed in the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao multiple murder case, Malacañang said Thursday after a trial court sentenced masterminds of the massacre to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years in prison without parole.

“We predicted that this is the only way the judgment should go," Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.

"This is justice. It was admittedly a slow process but we have to go through it as warranted by our democratic system,” he added.

Brothers Zaldy and Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr. and several others were found guilty of multiple murder in the Maguindanao massacre, considered the worst political violence in the Philippines that left 58 people dead, including 32 journalists.

Unsay Ampatuan allegedly led the private army that stopped and massacred the convoy of a rival politician, Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, with the approval of his father and co-accused, Andal Ampatuan Sr, who died in 2015 before the verdict was handed down.

While both parties in the case can still appeal the verdict, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the decision shows that the rule of law has prevailed.

"Ultimately, it will be the Supreme Court that will give the final judgment. For now, what is important is that the rule of law has prevailed," he said.

Panelo, who briefly served as counsel for the Ampatuans in 2014, added that the "merciless disregard for the sacredness of human life" should never happen again.

"This savage affront to human rights should never have a duplication in this country’s history," he said.

"The President and the whole of government see this as a constant trial and is therefore still hard at work in building a nation where wanton acts of violence can be prevented so that any intention to threaten our democracy will not prosper even at its inception," he added.