DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The verdict on the Ampatuan massacre case is set on December 19, which will mark ten years of searching for justice for the killing of 58 persons, including 32 media people, in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, who presided on the case for the past nine years, announced that the promulgation of the case will be held at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City, a maximum-security police camp where some of the suspects of the massacre are detained.
The decision will decide on the primary accused, Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr, his brothers, former ARMM Governor Zaldy, former Vice Governor of Maguindanao Sajid, and a hundred other members of the Ampatuan clan and private army.
“We have waited for so long for this day to come. Each day of waiting is like torture for all of us who lost our loved ones. We cannot wait for justice to come,” said Emily Lopez, a cousin of slain journalist Arturo Betia and head of the group Justice Now that unites the families of the journalist victims.
Lopez hopes the decision will favor the victims, as they have raised this battle cry for a decade as the past administration promised a speedy trial on the case.
“Over the years, the families were promised by different leaders of the government. They said they would do everything they can for the case, they even promised us assistance yet such promises remained as it is,” Lopez added.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) welcomed the announcement and is holding a countdown awaiting the decision. They also call on fellow journalists to join the family in covering the promulgation.
“The fights for justice and against impunity have come this far due to their sacrifices and steadfastness. We, along with other media organizations, civil society groups and friends here and abroad, will mark the promulgation with a daily countdown until the decision is announced. We appeal to colleagues and friends to hold activities and offer prayers and support to the families of the victims.”
The Ampatuan Massacre is considered the worst case of impunity and journalist killing in the Philippines.
A convoy of a rival political family who was set to file the candidacy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu for governor of Ampatuan in the 2010 election was stopped on the highway in Sitio Masalay by more than a hundred armed men, reportedly led by Unsay, who was planning to run unopposed.
They were brought to a hilly area and were massacred. 32 journalists were killed, and the rest were part of the Mangudadatu clan including his two lawyers. Five other people in two vehicles who were not part of the convoy were also dragged.(davaotoday.com)