Massacre victims’ kin mark ‘Undas’ with calls for speedy justice

KORONADAL CITY(MindaNews/ 01 November)—Family members of media workers killed in the infamous Ampatuan Massacre marked All Saint’s Day with visits to cemeteries and calls for a speedy trial as the gory manslaughter approaches its third anniversary on November 23.

Emily Lopez, president of Justice Now Movement, said the families, friends and co-workers of the media victims individually visited their graveyards, except those in General Santos City where the slain media workers were laid to rest beside each other.

The other media victims were buried in private or public cemeteries in the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.

“It’s difficult for all of us to come together because the burial places are scattered. So we are marking “undas” individually. But in GenSan, we expect the family members to gather together Thursday afternoon (Nov.1) because the victims are all buried here,” Lopez said.

Fifty-eight persons, 32 of them media workers, were killed on November 23, 2009, in the worst pre-election violence in Philippine history. The massacre was blamed on several members of the powerful Ampatuan clan, including former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Twelve of the 32 media victims are buried at the Forest Lake Memorial Park.

Lopez said the families of the media victims will gather for the third anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre on November 23.

“The wheels of justice are still grinding slow for the Ampatuan Massacre case. We hope that the trial will proceed much faster,” she said.

Motions from the defense panel are dragging the trial, Lopez said, adding that many suspects have also remained free.

One hundred ninety six persons stand accused in the massacre, around 100 of them still being hunted by authorities.

The trial has been going four times a week, with a day allotted for filing of motions.

Witnesses said then Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., allegedly headed around 100 gunmen in stopping the convoy in Ampatuan town that would file the certificate of candidacy (COC) of then Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu for the 2010 gubernatorial race.

The media workers in the convey were going to cover the filing of the COC at the Commission on Elections’ provincial office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao’s provincial capital.

Mangudadatu, who eventually won the gubernatorial race, sent his wife, Bai Genalyn, his two sisters and other relatives, to file his COC for governor. His former ally, Ampatuan, Jr. was going to run for Maguindanao governor, as well.

Ampatuan Sr. and Ampatuan Jr. have pleaded not guilty.

Another prominent family member, Zaldy Ampatuan, then governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was also among the suspects. He has yet to be arraigned. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)