100 suspects in Ampatuan massacre remain free

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23 May)—One hundred suspects in the gruesome massacre in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao that shocked the nation two years ago have remained scot-free, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said on Wednesday.

Rowena C. Paraan, NUJP secretary general, stressed that only 96 of the 196 suspects have been arrested since the grisly manslaughter happened exactly thirty months ago today (Wednesday).

She also lamented that of those 64 suspects arraigned, only two of them are primary suspects—former Maguindanao Governor Andal S. Ampatuan Sr. and his son and namesake Andal U. Ampatuan, Jr. former mayor of Datu Unsay town.

Another prominent family member, Zaldy U Ampatuan, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has been put behind bars but has yet to be arraigned.

Zaldy has petitioned the Supreme Court to drop him from the murder charge sheet.

Fifty-eight people, 32 of them media workers, were brutally killed in the Ampatuan massacre, named after the town where the incident happened, on November 23, 2009.

It was the worst election-related violence in Philippine history and the worst single attack against media workers anywhere else in the world.

The body of one of the media victims, Reynaldo Momay, photographer of Tacurong City-based Midland Review, remains missing.

Momay’s daughter, Reynafe Momay-Castillo, remained hopeful the body of his father can still be found so he can be given a decent burial.

Castillo also lamented the slow pace of the justice system for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre.

“[It’s now] 874 days of injustice for [the] Ampatuan massacre victims,” she posted on her Facebook account.

Various journalists’ groups in the country marked the 30th month of the massacre with prayers, photo exhibits and calls for justice for the victims.

The Philippines ranks third in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ impunity index, ranking next to Iraq and Somalia among countries with the most media killings and the least convictions relative to their population, the NUJP said.

Aside from the slain media workers, the other victims in the Ampatuan massacre included female family members and relatives of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael G. Mangudadatu and individuals who happened to pass by when armed men stopped the victims’ convoy.

Around 100 gunmen, allegedly headed by Andal U. Ampatuan Jr., flagged down the convoy in Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town and later herded them to hilly Sitio Masalay where they were brutally killed.

Mangudadatu, then vice mayor of Buluan town, had sent female family members, including his wife Genalyn, to file his certificate of candidacy for governor in Shariff Aguak town.

The media workers were part of the convoy to cover the filing of candidacy. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)