Kin of slain journalists in Maguindanao Massacre hope for guilty verdict

Maris Federez   •   December 13, 2019   •   455

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Relatives of the journalists who had fallen prey to the Maguindanao Massacre have expressed hope of a favorable verdict from the court.

Jergin dela Cruz came close to losing hope of getting justice for her mother, Gina dela Cruz and 31 others who perished in the gruesome massacre that happened 10 years ago.

Jergin took on the role of her mother for his four siblings.

“Sa 10 years napakarami na pong dinaraanan namin. Minsan mga sabi-sabi ng tao na wala ng pag-asa. Pero kami sa isip at puso namin mayroon pa rin pag-asa. At tsaka hanggang ngayon lumalaban parin kami ng mga kapatid ko [For 10 years we have gone through so many things. There were times that peope said it’s hopeless. But in our minds and hearts there is still hope. And up until now, my siblings and I are still fighting for it],”said Jergin.

They have gotten their hopes up again upon learning that the accused in the gruesome murder will finally be handed out their sentence.

“Ang hiling ko lang naman po ngayon na mabigyan kami ng tamang hustisya sa mga nanay at tatay namin na namatay sa Maguindanao Massacre. At sana naman po hindi na papatagalin. Sana po ngayong 19 lalabas na po yung katotohanan. At tsaka gusto po namin na malaman ng lahat lahat kung ano ang ginawa ng mga Ampatuan sa mga biktima [We hope that our mothers and fathers who died in the Maguindanao Massacre will be given the right justice. And we hope there will be no more delays. We hope that we will all find the truth on the 19th. And we want to know all the details of what the Ampatuans did to the victims],” Jergin added.

Aside from Jergin, Desiderio Evardo had done all he could to forget what happened to his son Jolito Evardo, a video editor from UNTV who was also slain in the massacre.

Mang Desidario said they can only breathe normally after the 10 long years of waiting if his son’s death, as well as the other victims, will be given justice.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa gobyerno natin na mayroon na siyang judgement. Pero yung judgement hindi ko pa kase alam kung life-sentence ba yan. Pero mas maganda yun kase hindi na kami mag-alala pa kung kailan ba uusad ang kaso. It’s better dyan na mangyari na mayroon ng promulgation sa korte [We thank the government for finally coming up with a decision. Although we don’t know if the decision is for a life sentence. But having that is better as we will no longer be worried if the case will move forward or not. It’s better now that the promulgation will be happening],” said Mr. Evardo.

To date, the relatives of the victims are preparing to depart for Manila to personally witness the promulgation of the judgment on the accused. — (from the report of Mindanao Correspondent Janice Ingente) /mbmf

Ampatuans convicted in massacre case head to Court of Appeals

Robie de Guzman   •   January 3, 2020

Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Ampatuan clan who were found guilty of planning and executing the gruesome 2009 massacre in Maguindanao are heading to the Court of Appeals (CA) to contest their convictions.

In a notice served to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 on Thursday, Brothers Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan said they will take the case to the appellate court, and asked the lower court to forward all of the case records to the CA for review and proceedings.

Their relatives Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Sr. and his sons Datu Anwar Jr and Anwar Sajid have filed separate motions for reconsiderations before the Quezon City court, urging Judge Solis-Reyes to review the decision due to the alleged loopholes in the testimony of some witnesses.

On December 19, Judge Solis-Reyes handed down a guilty verdict to some members of the political Ampatuan clan for their involvement in the murder of 57 people, including members of the media.

Originally, there were 58 victims in the massacre but the 58th person, photographer Reynaldo Momay of the local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after his body was not found in the scene.

The ambush happened when 32 members of the media were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

Six of the victims were not part of the Mangudadatu supporters and the media convoy.

The Ampatuan massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in a separate motion, Zaldy Ampatuan asked the QC court to allow his transfer to the infirmary of the New Bilibid Prison “to receive therapy, rehabilitation and medication prescribed by his doctors, and so as not to unduly put his health in jeopardy.

His lawyers said the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government have suffered three strokes in two months, and has hypertension, diabetes and chronic atrial fibrillation.

Zaldy Ampatuan had been confined to a hospital in Makati from October to December. He was ordered by the court to return to his detention facility a day before the Ampatuan case promulgation.

Mangudadatu, on the other hand, said he is not surprised by the legal moves that the Ampatuans are employing following the promulgation.

“Expected namin yan pero kung magkaroon man ng final conviction kumbaga dapat sa panahon na yan may bitay na para hindi na tularan itong ganitong klaseng gawain,” he said.

He also expressed confidence that evidence against the Ampatuans are airtight and that the appellate court will not grant their appeals. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

PH Senators hail guilty verdict for prime suspects in Ampatuan massacre

Robie de Guzman   •   December 19, 2019

A handout photo made available by the Supreme Court – Public Information Office (SC-PIO) shows a court employee (R) reading the verdict for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre at the trial venue inside a prison facility Taguig city, Philippines, 19 December 2019. EPA-EFE/SC-PIO

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino senators on Thursday expressed elation over the guilty verdict handed down by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against several members of the powerful Ampatuan clan and others involved in the gruesome killing of 57 people in 2009.

“Justice won today,” Senator Ralph Recto said in a statement, while Senator Joel Villanueva said the decision restores the public’s faith in the country’s justice system.

“I salute Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes for her dedication and her courage to stand for what is right and just,” he said.

Villanueva also expressed hope that the government will continue to hunt down some 80 suspects who remain at large.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the case ruling has been a day too long in coming but is still a step towards the full measure of justice.

“My heart goes out to the families of all the victims who have suffered for far too long. I am glad that this decision finally saw the light of day, and the truth is this decision should have come sooner,” she said in a statement.

“The world has waited ten long years, and finally, we have taken the first step towards healing, accountability and justice. But this is not where the road to justice ends,” she added.

Senator Imee Marcos also called the guilty verdict for some of the Ampatuan family members a triumph for justice.

“Bagamat masasabing napakailap ng hustisya dahil na rin sa tagal ng paglilitis, ang promulgasyon na isinagawa ngayon ay positibong aksyon para sa mga biktima, at sa kalaunan ay tuluyang mapanagot ang iba pang akusado sa Maguindanao massacre,” she said in a separate statement.

Senator Leila De Lima also lauded the case decision, as well as the efforts of presiding judge Solis-Reyes.

“Judge Reyes will be remembered for how she tirelessly weighed and appreciated the facts, which led to the conviction of the Maguindanao mass murderers,” she said. “This day will forever be etched in history as the day justice did not tolerate homicidal and monstrous abuse of power.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, empathized with the victims’ families who waited a decade to get justice for their slain loved ones.

“I admire them for their strength and their faith. We continue to pray for peace in their hearts,” he said.

The 10-year old case stemmed from the grisly attack on November 23, 2009, that resulted in the death of 57 people, including 31 media workers.

Originally, there were 58 victims in the massacre but the 58th person, photographer Reynaldo Momay of the local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after his body was not found in the scene.

The ambush happened when they were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuan massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

PH gov’t urged to hunt down Ampatuan massacre suspects still at large

Robie de Guzman   •   December 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Human Rights Watch (HRW) group urged the Philippine government to hunt down and arrest the remaining suspects in the Ampatuan massacre case who are still at large.

In a statement issued ahead of the case promulgation on Thursday, the HRW said the suspects in the gruesome attack who still roam free puts the victims’ families and wit at grave risk.

“The families of Maguindanao victims and witnesses will be at risk so long as suspects remain free,” HRW deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.

Around 197 people were accused in the massacre. Of this number, 101 were put on trial while 80 others are yet to be arrested.

Among the suspects who remain at large are 14 members of the Ampatuan clan, and 50 soldiers and policemen who were accused of planning and carrying out the massacre on November 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan are the primary accused in the case.

The alleged private army of the Ampatuans purportedly blocked and ambushed the convoy of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans – when they were on their way to file his candidacy for the 2010 elections in a local Commission on Elections office.

The incident left 58 people dead including 32 media personnel, some civilians and members of the Mangudadatu family.

The massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

A special court was created by the Supreme Court to handle the case, enabling the presiding judge, Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court branch 221, to hold frequent hearings.

The case has dragged on for a decade in part because of the sheer number of victims, respondents and witnesses presented both for the prosecution and defense.

With the expected release of the verdict on the case, the HRW said the government should continue to pursue all the accused.

“Regardless of the verdicts in the case, Philippine authorities need to apprehend the several dozen suspects still at large,” Robertson said.

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