Gabriela slams Aquino over slow Ampatuan massacre trial

KORONADAL CITY(MindaNews/7 July)—Militant women’s party-list group Gabriela today hit the Aquino administration’s apparent sluggish effort to serve justice to the victims of the Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao nearly three years ago.

“Every day that President Aquino’s administration delays the delivery of justice in relation to the Ampatuan massacre, he further cultivates and fosters the culture of impunity,” Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus said in a statement today.

De Jesus noted that Myrna Reblando had fled the country and sought political asylum in Hong Kong for fear of her life.

Reblando is the widow of Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, reporter of the Manila Bulletin who was among the 58 people killed in Ampatuan town on November 23, 2009.

Thirty-two of the victims were journalists or media workers who were then covering the filing of candidacy of now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu.

Mangudadatu sent his wife Genalyn and several female family members, who were also killed, to file his candidacy challenging the reign of the powerful Ampatuan family. Some commuters were also among the massacre victims.

Among the suspects in the gruesome killing now in jail are former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his sons Zaldy, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Andal, Jr., former mayor of Datu Unsay town, and some other clan members.

Arrest warrants have been issued against 196 persons but so far 100 suspects remain at large, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said.

De Jesus said that since the trial began in January 2012, three witnesses have been killed.

“Thirty months later, the trial continues to drag on,” she said.

De Jesus noted that President Aquino seemed “not resolute in resolving the Ampatuan massacre,” adding he should do what the administration did to the impeachment case of former Chief Justice Renato Corona that led to his conviction.

“As long as the Aquino government does nothing to punish those accountable, Philippine democracy and freedom are deceptions and shadows of unrealized hopes,” she said.

Reblando said she left General Santos City to seek political asylum in Hong Kong due to death threats.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, a non-government organization that monitors human rights issues in Asia, Reblando had a P3 million bounty on her head.

“Before, I could speak freely and I thought I had freedom and protection. But now I am a person who is being hunted for what I have spoken and without protection even from my own Philippine government. I decided to leave my country because for person seeking remedies and redress in our system of justice, I had no protection,” she said in a speech late last month at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong.

Reblando was the former vice chairman of Justice Now! Movement, the group comprising the families of the murdered media workers. While then in the country, she was vocal in pressing justice for the Ampatuan massacre victims.

In the 2010 presidential elections, she was among those who appeared in television advertisements promoting the bid of Aquino. (MindaNews)