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Maguindanao Massacre: Justice delayed

Eight years ago, I had a meeting in Dubai when I got the news about the most embarrassing, albeit humiliating, massacre that the world had ever heard of – the famous Ampatuan or Maguindanao Massacre, where 58 innocent people were murdered allegedly by former mayor Andal Ampatuan. Some 32 of them were journalists (it is considered the worst single attack against journalists in the whole world).

It was the last year of president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s rein and I recall that her Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr. immediately brought the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) when Arroyo declared Martial Law in Maguindanao. What the AFP found inside the luxurious homes of the Ampatuans were cache of arms enough to arm a battalion of soldiers. All these were revealed because of this massacre.

But what pains us Filipinos is the snail-paced justice system that continues to prevail in this country 30 years after the EDSA Revolution. I recall that after the assassination of the late senator, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., we joined a group called Justice for Ninoy, Justice for All (JAJA). Justice still eludes the Filipino today, 30 years after EDSA. Justice delayed is justice denied!

When the Marcos dictatorship left, and Tita Cory took over the reins of power in Malacañang, we thought that she would have the assassination of her husband thoroughly investigated. To our surprise, Tita Cory showed that she didn’t care. The same thing happened when the son of Tita Cory, then president Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III took over the reins of power in Malacañang in 2010. He, too, didn’t care to have the killing of his father investigated. Thus, the Maguindanao Massacre went through the six years of the Aquino presidency stuck in the rusting wheels of justice.

We mistakenly thought that removing the Marcos dictatorship would have ushered reforms in the way the Philippine government was run. How wrong we were. This is why as the years went by, less and less people would troop to the EDSA Shrine to celebrate the EDSA Revolt. The last one this year only had 3,000 people.

As far as the Ampatuan Massacre is concerned, the latest we got from the news reports was that the Supreme Court (SC) said 103 of the accused are still undergoing trial before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221. The SC public information office said the charges against the accused led by former mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. are now in three final stages – resolution of remaining FOEs (formal offer of evidence) of the evidence-in-chief, demurrers to evidence and termination of the presentation of defense evidence.

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The SC statement said, “As soon as the accused have rested their presentation of evidence, their cases may be submitted for the decision of the court. Then it’s the turn of the accused to present their evidence-in-chief. Thirty-one have concluded the presentation of their evidence and 34 more are currently presenting their evidences.” As an added information, this time from the regional trial courts, 273 witness have been heard, 166 from the prosecution and 107 from the defense.

If there is anything that we expect from President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, it is that he should personally see that justice is done by making sure that our courts would finally come up with a decision on this case. It’s been too long that justice has eluded the victims of this massacre.

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My friend, Cerwin Eviota, emailed me an invitation to attend a presscon for the Metro Cebu monorail system that comes from the Philtram Transportation Consortium Inc. at the Quest Hotel today. This is the same Philtram that Mayor Tomas Osmeña signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with, but when I checked them in Google, only the reports of the news about that signing of the MOU would appear.

Well, now it appears that China Railway is part of this consortium. I just hope this company is not the same one that sold rail cars to the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) a few years ago but were totally unusable. Unfortunately, I have to be in Manila today so I can’t attend this presscon. But I will certainly follow this up when I read the news reports about this presscon on Saturday. So how much will this cost and who will pay for it is a question begging an answer.

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com. or vsbob-ita@gmail.com His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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