PH gov’t urged to hunt down Ampatuan massacre suspects still at large
Robie de Guzman • December 19, 2019 • 1070
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.
MANILA, Philippines — The fight continues. After eleven years since the Ampatuan Massacre, and a year after the verdict, the victims’ kin continues to fight for justice.
Forty-three individuals were found guilty, including five members of the Ampatuan family.
Mary Grace Morales, who lost her husband and a brother, expressed her dismay, saying that there are suspects that are still at large. Morales lamented several of the accused were able to bail out.
“Iyong mga convicted na mga Ampatuan ay nag-file pa ng bail sa higher court so paano po nila nasasabi na tapos na ang kaso (Several of the convicted Ampatuans filed a bail in the higher court, how can they say that the case is over)?” she said.
Atty. Nena Santos, one of the lawyers for the victims, said there are still 76 first wave suspects still at large.
She also said they already filed an appeal to increase the civil damages to be received by the victims but the Supreme Court still has no final decision on the matter.
Meanwhile, Reynafe Momay-Castillo, the daughter of Photojournalist Reynaldo Momay, still insists that her father is among the victims of the massacre. The court ruled out his father as one of the victims since his body was not found.
“I can only wish one day that 57 will be up by one since it matters more to me than before. Let us remember that the 58th victim was my father and that the victim is Reynaldo Bebot Momay,” she said.
Atty. Santos also lamented that out of the 48-second wave of suspects, 40 were dismissed and 8 had no verdict.
“Nakapagtaka ito kasi lahat ng mga hindi nag-file ng counter-affidavit natanggal pa rin sa kaso (It makes one wonder that those who did not file a counter-affidavit were also dismissed),” Santos said.
The lawyers and victims of the Ampatuan Massacre still believe that the case will remain unresolved as long as there is no final decision on the pending cases. —AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)
MANILA, Philippines – A witness in the Maguindanao massacre trial who is under state protection was injured in an ambush in South Cotabato on Wednesday.
Lawyer Nena Santos, who represents several families of the massacre victims, said Mohamad Sangki, his driver, and one security escort from the Department of Justice’s witness protection program (WPP) were traversing Tantangan, South Cotabato on their way to the airport when they were ambushed.
Sangki was not hit by the bullets but he sustained injuries due to the impact of the vehicle when it slammed against two cottages along the road, Santos said.
The security escort was able to return fire but the gunmen fled the scene.
“The driver is 50/50 but prognosis is bad,” she added.
Santos said they are now being treated in a hospital while authorities are pursuing the perpetrators.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he will order an investigation into the shooting incident.
“Sangki is a vital witness in the second wave of prosecution for the Maguindanao massacre, and it is not far-fetched that his ambush today had something to do with the horrible case,” Guevarra said in a statement.
This is the second time that Sangki’s life was threatened after he survived an ambush try in Sharif Aguak town in Maguindanao in March.
The Maguindanao massacre, the country’s worst case of election-related violence, claimed the lives of 58 people on November 23, 2009.
Most of the victims were media personnel who joined the convoy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s wife to cover the filing of his certificate of candidacy for the governor’s position.
In December 2019, members of the Ampatuan clan were found guilty and sentenced to a maximum of 40 years of imprisonment for the murder of 57 people in Maguindanao.
Among those convicted were Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr., Zaldy Ampatuan, and Datu Anwar, Sr. who are sons of the late Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. accused of masterminding the gruesome crime. –RRD (details from CorrespondenceJanice Ingente)
MANILA, Philippines – A police officer tagged in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre case has surrendered after more than 10 years of hiding, authorities said Wednesday.
Police Officer Ysmael Baraquir of the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office surrendered to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) regional field unit 15 around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Barangay Linandangan, Pagalungan in Maguindanao.
Police said they took Baraquir into custody based on an arrest warrant for 56 counts of murder signed by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.
Baraquir is also listed in the national level most wanted persons, according to a report to CIDG acting director Brig. Gene. Joel Napoleon Coronel.
Earlier, two massacre suspects were separately arrested by authorities in Maguindanao after the court released last December 2019 its verdict on the gruesome killing.
On December 19, QC RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes handed down a guilty verdict to several members of the political Ampatuan clan, including former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Anwar Ampatuan Sr., Anwar Ampatuan Jr., and Anwar Sajid Ampatuan, 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 Ampatuan massacre is considered the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.
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