Police investigators look for evidence next to a backhoe after a vehicle and human remains were dug up from a shallow grave in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao in a Nov. 25, 2009. (Philstar file photo)

Sa Huebes (Dec. 19) na ang desisyon!

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) – December 2, 2019 – 3:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — Journalist groups are expecting no less than a guilty verdict for the principal suspects in the killing of 58 people—32 of the media workers—in Maguindanao province a decade ago.

In a statement Monday, NUJP said it is hopeful that those responsible for “this dastardly crime” will be held accountable and punished.

“We expect nothing less than a conviction especially those directly responsible and involved in the killings. Otherwise, the mockery of justice and the culture of impunity will continue to reign and worsen,” NUJP said in a statement Monday.

In a separate statement before the tenth annoversary of the massacre, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines called for a closure to the case that would “will bring all perpetrators, especially the masterminds, to justice.”

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“Convictions of the perpetrators and full recompense of the victims’ families will be a first step in reversing the long and tragic injustice,” it also said.

In an order dated November 29 and made public on Monday, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 announced that the verdict on the Ampatuan massacre will be out on December 19.

Reyes will hand down the decision after a decade-long trial.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the government believes that justice “will [be] dispensed even handedly and with utmost respect for the rule of law.”

The Ampatuan massacre is tagged as the Philippines’ worst case of election-related violence and the single deadliest attack on journalists in the Philippines.

“For so long, the families of the victims have endured the pain of losing their loved ones, the agony of being deprived of breadwinners, the fear of being targeted by the perpetrators and the relentless pressure to give up the case and accept bribes,” NUJP said.

“The fight for justice and against impunity have come this far due to their sacrifices and steadfastness,” the organization added.

Members of the Ampatuan political clan are among the over 100 individuals who were tried for the November 23, 2009 massacre, when relatives of then Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmale Mangudadatu and a convoy of journalists were stopped and attacked by gunmen. The bodies of the victims were found buried in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.

“Even as we expect a conviction, we are saddened that at least 80 massacre suspects, including Ampatuan clan members, remain free after 10 years,” NUJP said.

Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan—both in jail—are the primary accused in the case. Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan was allowed to post bail in 2015.

Ampatuan patriarch Andal Sr. died in July 2015.

Statement of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Bacolod Chapter

IN SOLIDARITY. Journalists in Bacolod City led by the Negros Press Club and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chapter will gather at the NPC office on Thursday, December 19, to watch the televised coverage of the promulgation of judgment on the Ampatuan massacre, which will start at 9 a.m.

The Supreme Court has earlier granted the petition of media organizations and news agencies to allow an open coverage on the decision which will be handed down by Quezon City Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, Metro Manila, where two principal suspects, Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr., and Zaldy Ampatuan, are detained.

“Majority of the families of the victims reside in General Santos City, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao,” the petition said.

The petition also stressed that “transparency made possible by a live broadcast would help boost public trust in the judicial system.”

On November 23, 2009, the 58 victims, including the 32 journalists, were shot to death on the way to the provincial poll office for the filing of certificate of candidacy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, for governor against Andal Ampatuan Jr., the son of the governor at the time, Andal Ampatuan Sr., the alleged mastermind of the massacre who died in 2015.

The Maguindanao massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence in recent Philippine history and the worst attack on journalists the world has known.*


Chrysee Samillano
Negros Press Club president

Marchel Espina
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chapter president