In this file photo taken November 2018, families and journalists gather in Ampatuan, Maguindanao to mark the ninth year since the massacre. An international watchdog on Nov. 23, 2019 said the lack of convictions since the Ampatuan massacre exactly ten years ago is due to long-standing systemic issues like political dynasties and corrupt police.
Philstar.com/Jonathan de Santos
No justice a decade after Maguindanao massacre as 'lawless political culture' remains — HRW
Ratziel San Juan (Philstar.com) - November 23, 2019 - 10:28am

PANGASINAN, Philippines — An international watchdog said the lack of convictions since the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre is due to long-standing systemic issues like political dynasties and corrupt police that remain 10 years after the incident.

“The 2009 massacre prompted calls to fix the Philippines’ political, criminal and judicial systems. While there have been efforts at judicial reform, legacies of dysfunction in the country remain alive and well,” read the Saturday release by Human Rights Watch (Asia Division) researcher Carlos Conde.

“Political dynasties still rule, particularly in rural areas like Maguindanao. The police remain corrupt and inefficient, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has done nothing to change that.”

Marked the single deadliest attack on journalists, 32 of the 58 victims in the massacre were members of the press. The victims were part of a convoy led by Genalyn Mangudadatu, wife of then-Buluan vice mayor and now Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu.

They were on their way to cover Genalyn's filing of the certificate of candidacy of her husband at the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak when they were stopped and murdered by more than 100 armed men.

“Next month, a court in Manila is expected to announce its verdict in the case. Among those facing judgment are Andal Ampatuan and Zaldy Ampatuan, the sons of the late head of the Ampatuan clan, and dozens of other suspects,” the statement read.

“But the slow process to reach this point highlights the many problems in the Philippine justice system. Victims’ families remain indignant about the glacial proceedings but hopeful the judge will render justice in the case.”

‘Slow process’

Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. is the primary accused in the case pending before the sala of Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, and which has been submitted for resolution.

However, upon the judge’s request, a one-month extension on the decision of the case was granted by the Supreme court in early November.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said Solis-Reyes has until December 20 to hand the decision.

Andal Jr. is among the 197 suspects charged over the massacre. Other members of the Ampatuan clan—including its patriarch Andal Sr. who died in 2015—were charged with 58 counts of murder.

“Convicting those responsible for the Maguindanao Massacre would serve as a wake-up call that justice is possible in the Philippines, and a human rights-abusing status quo is unacceptable,” the Human Rights Watch statement read.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines denounced the delay of the decision on the massacre case, which was initially expected to be released Saturday.

“As expected, disappointment na may halong galit dahil sa dagdag ng delay, pero andon din ang resolve to see things through,” NUJP president Nonoy Espina told Philstar.com.

(As expected, disappointment and outrage come from the delay, but the resolve to see things through remains.)

“Ipinaalala din na makamit man ang katarungan para sa biktima ng masker, patuloy pa rin ang pamamaslang at mga banta sa malayang pamamamahayag.”

(We must also remember that even if justice is obtained for the massacre’s victims, the killings and threats on press freedom remain.)

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar in September said a court decision on the massacre could be out before its 10th anniversary.

"The court has already deemed the case as submitted for decision, and barring unforeseen circumstances, we are hoping for a decision by the third week of November,” Andanar said in a statement.

Press freedom threat

In 2019, the Philippines for the third consecutive year has the most “unsolved murders of journalists in countries with [the] worst record for justice” according to the Global Impunity Index 2019 by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The CPJ also noted that in the country’s 12 years on the index, it has been among the worst five “nearly every year since the index was first published in 2008.”

“The country’s fifth-worst ranking is due in part to the deadly ambush of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists and media workers, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, on November 23, 2009,” the CPJ report read.

“The trial of over 100 suspects behind the massacre is due to conclude this year, but as of August 31, 2019—the final date CPJ counted convictions for this year’s index—no verdict had been announced.”

The Philippines also ranked 134th of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF) in April.

AMPATUAN MASSACRE HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE
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