PH Senators hail guilty verdict for prime suspects in Ampatuan massacre

Robie de Guzman   •   December 19, 2019   •   1152

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.

Fight is not yet over for kin of Ampatuan massacre victims

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 23, 2020

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)

Cop linked to 2009 Ampatuan massacre surrenders to CIDG

Robie de Guzman   •   January 22, 2020

Police Officer Ysmael Baraquir

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.

Another Ampatuan massacre fugitive arrested

Robie de Guzman   •   January 10, 2020

Ampatuan massacre suspect, Gambayan Kasim, also known as Lori Alip

MANILA, Philippines – Another at-large suspect in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre has been finally caught after eluding arrest for over a decade, authorities said Friday.

Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PRO-BARMM) identified the suspect as 47-year old Gambayan Kasim, also known as Lori Alip.

The PRO-BARMM added that Kasim, an alleged member of a private armed group, was arrested after he was served a warrant of arrest on Thursday, January 9 at Barangay Timbangan in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao.

Authorities recovered a hand grenade from Kasim’s possession.

During the operation, Kasim’s alleged cohort, identified as Edsrail Guiomla alias Nas Guiomla, fired shots at the operatives.

Police retaliated and injured Guiomla. He was rushed to a hospital but was declared dead upon arrival.

Recovered form Guiomla was a caliber .45 gun and 13 sachets of suspected shabu (crystal meth).

Police said Kasim and the collected pieces of evidence were turned over to proper authorities for documentation and disposition.

Last January 6, police also nabbed Faisal Dimaukom alias Kagi Faizal, who is one of the suspects in the massacre.

Dimaukom was arrested during an operation in Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

Kasim and Dimaukom are among the 80 out of nearly 200 suspects in the massacre who were at large when the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) Branch 221 released last month its verdict on the gruesome killing.

On December 19, QC RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes handed down a guilty verdict to some 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 as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

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