5th year: Kin of Ampatuan Massacre victims set awareness campaign

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 November) — Relatives and colleagues of media workers who were slain in the gruesome November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre are set to launch a series of awareness campaigns in connection with the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the killings.

Emily Lopez, chair of the Justice Now Movement, said Monday they will visit schools and local communities this week to inform the public about the progress of the cases that had been filed against the suspects in the massacre that killed 58 people, including 32 media workers.

She said they want the people to know the latest developments on the case, especially the status of the continuing trial against members of the Ampatuan political clan of Maguindanao who have been tagged as masterminds of the carnage.

The move also aims to get wider support from the public for the case and in pressuring the national government to speed up the trial as well its resolution, she said.

She said they need the help of the people to ensure that genuine justice will be served to the victims.

Lopez said they are hopeful that the case will be resolved before the end of the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III in June 2016.

She said their group, which is composed of families and close relatives of the slain 32 media workers, remain “united and steadfast to pursue the case without compromise until the end.”

“We knew from the start that the road to justice will be long and difficult. But we’re fully committed towards our goal to get genuine justice for the victims, whether through the courts or the streets,” said Lopez, who is also a local coordinator of militant human rights group Karapatan.

Justice Secretary Leila Delima said earlier this month that they are still targeting to secure a conviction of the suspects in the case before the end of the President’s term.

De Lima, who took over the supervision last month of the case’s prosecution panel, acknowledged that the case is indeed already taking too long “in the sense that it is really very difficult to prosecute as the case involves too many victims, accused and witnesses.”

The victims were on their way to Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009 to file the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu for governor when their convoy was waylaid in Ampatuan town.

Around 100 gunmen allegedly headed by former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. herded them off to a hilly portion of Masalay where they were brutally killed.

Mangudadatu was spared from the massacre after he sent his wife Genalyn and several female family members to file his candidacy. The media workers were part of the convoy to cover the filing.

The Ampatuan Massacre has since placed the Philippines in the list of the most dangerous countries for journalists.

A total of 194 people had been charged over the massacre, 15 of whom were members of the Ampatuan clan.

Eight of them led by the Ampatuan patriarch Andal Sr. had been arrested and already arraigned before Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.

The seven others are the elder Ampatuan’s sons former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Jr., former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy, former Maguindanao vice governor Sajid Islam and former Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao Mayor Anwar Sr.; nephew and brother-in-law former Mamasapano, Maguindanao Mayor Akmad Sr.; and grandsons former Shariff Aguak vice mayor Anwar Jr. and Anwar Sajid. (MindaNews)