‘Worth the wait’: Victims’ kin welcome Ampatuan massacre case verdict but worry for their safety. (Philstar.com/Erwin Cagadas Jr.)

(Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

Inday Espina-Varona

9 hrs

Lest victory makes us forget some key lessons: Warlords like the Ampatuans don’t exist in a vacuum. Since the time of Marcos, to Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo, national administrations coddled and even kowtowed to the Ampatuans.

Local officials also befriended them (yes, their families were protected in Davao). After all, ang cursory check of local officialdom in this country show an unending cycle of the same political dynasties — who also control land and other resources and most economic industries and want more, and more and more.
But the ones really responsible for the rise of the Ampatuans were national leaders. They were prized for command votes — harvested by din of coercion, patronage and outright bribes.
The Ampatuans were also valued for their ruthlessness and willingness to protect the interests of patrons.
Andal Sr was with the Marcos paramilitary. When Arroyo was forced to raid their armory due to public outrage — turns out most of their weapons and ammo came from the DND.
That build up of strength didn’t happen overnight. It’s an open secret that politicians across all major parties made pilgrimages to the Ampatuans.
But Arroyo, of course, reaped great benefit from them — as 12-0 shut out of the opposition in the 2007 elections marred by fraud.
In return, the Ampatuans raided the local coffers and whatever national admins sent to their territory.
Check out the graft cases they faced.
They were among the richest clans and grew richer, as their people remained mired in poverty.
The Ampatuan massacre trial is a display of impunity writ large and the tangled web of political and economic largesse that breed corruption. And many of the conditions that nurtured this clan also exist today.
I am not going to dispute Esmael Mangudadatu’s statement on Duterte helping him during the critical hours following the abduction of his family’s convoy, which included vehicles with journos. Six other people died simply by passing through the wrong place in the wrong time.
Mangudadatu said then Davao mayor Duterte helped borrow a chopper to search for the massacre site, a crucial favor that allowed searchers to spot gunmen burying the bodies of the 58 slain.
Just like mobsters, warlords will turn on their friends once a certain point of outrage is passed and they feel collective interest has become vulnerable.
For whatever reason, it was an important gesture of aid.
People draw lines on the sand, usually depending on interests.
Also, many of GMA’s Cabinet peeps were his friends and are in his Cabinet now.

Philstar.com

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) – December 19, 2019 – 5:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — The families of the victims in the gruesome Ampatuan massacre hailed the guilty verdict handed to the principal suspects in the slaughter, ending their decade-long quest for justice.

Victims’ kin were all smiles when they walked out of the annex court in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig after Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes ended the hearing and the 10-year-old case.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan were found guilty of 57 counts of murder and were sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole.

RELATED: Dentures not enough to prove death of 58th Maguindanao massacre victim — court 

Accompanied by their lawyers, the victims’ kin, were all smiles and flashed “victory” signs at the crowd outside the annex court.

“I am happy. Even if we waited more than a decade for justice, it felt worth it,” 20-year-old Jay Mark Jhoy Duhay said in Filipino. He was in fourth grade when his dad Jhoy Duhay was killed.

He added: “Even if you were taken from us too soon, know that we love you and we have found justice.”

Erlyn Umpad, widow of Mark Gilbert Arriola, considers the judgment a “gift.”

Noemi Parcon, widow of slain journalist Joel Parcon, said she has already forgiven the suspects but she did not forget the quest for justice

“We have moved on. We have moved forward but we will never forget what happened to our loved ones,” she also said.

But while they are happy that the primary suspects are convicted, they expressed fear that those who were acquitted and the suspects who remain at large would come for them.

READ: Maguindanao massacre verdict: Zaldy Ampatuan, Andal Jr. found guilty of murder

Police personnel among acquitted

Most of those who were acquitted were police personnel of Maguindanao province at the time of the massacre.

Eighty individuals—including police and soldiers—have also evaded arrest.

“We need security because it is dangerous that there are many of them who are at large,” RG Caniban, partner of slain journalist John Caniban, said.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chair Nonoy Espina challenged the government to protect the victims’ families.

“Let the state own up to its own actions,” he said.