As Ampatuan case nears end, massacre victims' kin forge on with tempered hope
Families and journalists gather in Ampatuan, Maguindanao to mark the Maguindanao Massacre, nearly nine years ago.
Philstar.com/Jonathan de Santos

As Ampatuan case nears end, massacre victims' kin forge on with tempered hope

Kristine Joy Patag, Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - November 22, 2018 - 6:05pm

MANILA, Philippines — Almost nine years since the gruesome massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao, yet victims of widely condemned crime forge on with tempered hope as the case against the alleged brains behind the massacre draws to a close.

Earlier this week, Acting Prosecutor General Richard Fadullon said that the multiple murder cases against Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. and other accused have been submitted for resolution.

The Department of Justice is waiting for the setting of the promulgation of the case where the court would decide whether to convict or acquit Ampatuan.

The families of victims welcomed this development “with renewed vigor and relief.”

“We have full confidence that the evidence presented is enough to prove Datu Unsay’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, and we await the verdict with cautious hope,” they said in a statement released to media.

They said that to have a case on the massacre—globally condemned for its violence—is “already quite momentous.”

“The impending decision will undoubtedly go down in Philippine history as one of the most significant legal decisions to ever come from our trial courts regardless of the outcome,” they added.

Palace: Justice will prevail

Malacañang, for its part, assured the public that justice would prevail on the Maguindanao massacre—also called the Ampatuan Massacre for the clan accused of being behind the killings—case.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who is also chief presidential legal counsel, said the DOJ is doing its 'level best' to resolve the case.

"We’re not surprised that the wheels of justice in this country grind so slow. Many cases take so long, but what is important to us is justice will prevail. Rule of law will have to be observed regardless of who are the persons are involved in any particular case," Panelo said in a press briefing.

"The DOJ is the one responsible for prosecuting the case and so it is doing its job; it’s level best to speedy up the prosecution of the case," he added.

Verdict to bring back humanity

For the families, who noted that they “have waited for too long and have given so much to the case over the years,” they wish that the Court’s conclusion will give the people fulfilment and peace.

“More than a guilty verdict, we pray for a judgment that will bring a sense of humanity into this dark and regrettable incident,” they added.

A total of 58 people, 32 of them journalists, were killed in the massacre.

They were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to witness the filing of the certificate of candidacy for then Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu when they were flagged and killed by gunmen in Ampatuan town.

The incident prompted then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to place Maguindanao under martial law.

Members of the Ampatuan clan, political rivals of the Mangudadatus, were accused of ordering the killing.

Panelo is a former lawyer of the Ampatuans, a connection that sparked outrage after the announcement of his appointment as presidential spokesman in 2016.

Duterte later on named Ernesto Abella as his spokesman and appointed Panelo as chief presidential legal counsel instead. Panelo assumed as Duterte's spokesman last month after then presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Abella's successor, resigned to run for senator in 2019.

Asked if he thought the Ampatuans would be convicted, Panelo replied: "We can always speculate...You know the courts will always rule on the basis of evidence. That has been the rule and that has been the training of all lawyers."

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