GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 November) — The families of victims in the gruesome Ampatuan massacre are planning to seek an audience with President Rodrigo R. Duterte in a bid to advance their quest for justice.
Emily Lopez, chair of the Justice Now Movement, said Wednesday the president could intervene with the slow-moving trial of the case, especially against its alleged masterminds led by members of the Ampatuan family of Maguindanao.
She said Duterte had issued pronouncements in the past that we will help bring justice to the victims.
“We want to have an audience with him so we can get his commitment personally,” she said in an interview over radio station dxKR.
The group held various activities on Wednesday to mark the seventh year of the carnage that killed 58 people, including 32 media workers.
Some family members of the slain journalists visited anew the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao to light candles and offer prayers and flowers for the victims.
In coordination with a media association in the city, they held a commemoration activity at the Forest Lake Memorial Park here, where 10 of the victims were buried.
Lopez said their group, which is composed of the families of journalists, is “deeply dismayed” as the massacre trial has reached nearly seven years.
She said they had hoped that justice would be served in the previous administration but did not materialize as promised.
Lopez said they have high hopes that “significant progress” would be achieved in the Duterte administration.
“As we can see now, whatever he wants will surely be done. We’re hoping that it will be also applied to our case,” she said.
On Nov. 23, 2009, the victims were on their way to Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao 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 Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, 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.
Some 197 individuals were accused to have a hand in carrying out the brutality, although four have already died.
Among the primary suspects, 28 bore the surname Ampatuan.
Andal Sr. died of heart failure on July 17, 2015 while in detention.
Of the remaining 193 people accused of complicity in the gruesome murder, 112 are detained and facing trial while 81 others are still scot-free. (MindaNews)