MASSACRE SITE, Ampatuan, Maguindanao (MindaNews/21 November) – Barely two weeks after the world’s strongest storm hit the Visayas and portions of Luzon in November 2013, the priest who officiated the mass here to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre prayed “no political or judicial Yolanda” would happen in the administration of justice otherwise “it’s just like we were hit by a typhoon or earthquake, we will be coming back here again and again to commemorate anniversaries but the case won’t move and justice is not served.”
On Sunday noon, Fr. Rey Carvyn Ondap of the Passionist Fathers, in his homily on the commemoration of the 7th anniversary of the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre told relatives of the victims and journalists: “This is no longer an Ampatuan Massacre. This is a Judicial Massacre. The Ampatuan kingdom is gone already.”
Fifty-eight persons were killed here — 32 of them from the mediam, when armed men believed led by then Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., stopped the convoy led by the wife of then Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. The convoy was en route to the provincial Commission on Elections in Shariff Aguak to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor. Ampatuan Jr., was going to run for governor himself.
Mangudadatu is now on his third and last three-year term as Governor.
Sunday’s commemoration rites here was the first time for most of the children aged between 7 and 17 — to visit the site where their fathers or mothers were killed.
Ondap recalled that at the anniversary mass in 2013 he said “this is a political or judicial Yolanda. Karon (now) this is a judicial massacre.”
He said the judiciary is “wala nay delicadeza,” citing as example the burial of the remains of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Friday noon.
“Shortcut na tanan pakalitan lang” (Processes are cut short), he said, likening the surprise burial of Marcos to a “second stealing.”
Justice delayed is justice denied
Ondap also cited the extrajudicial killings in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. “Ingon ta’g EJK nga issue? Nothing new in the Philippines. Pobre ra gihapon ang gipangpatay. Way dato nga gipatay” (Only the poor are being killed. No wealthy person has been killed), he said although he added the killing of the mayor of Albuera in Leyte, as a case of infighting among the rich.
He noted the delays in the judicial proceedings amid suspicions of manipulations within the judiciary.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said, is truly apt in this case.
But Ondap added ”Dili na na burden sa mga Ampatuan karon it should be the burden sa atong mga korte unsaon nya pag ruling paspas” (The burden is no longer in the Ampatuans, it should be the burden of the court as to how the ruling can be hastened).
Not one of the 197 accused has been convicted since charges were filed in 2009, a few of them have died, including the patriarch Andal Ampatuan, Sr., in July 2015.
Sajid, youngest son of Andal Sr. was freed on bail in March 2015 after payment of P11.6 million bail bond. Seventeen policemen were also granted bail but could not afford the amount.
In his “Executive Summary of Inventory of Cases involving media workers” submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte on November 9, Joel Egco, Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, said: “Upon inquiry, the status of the Maguindanao Massacre case is for the presentation of defense evidence. However, the prosecution has not rested its case yet considering that the petition for bail of accused Unsay is still in the rebuttal stage.”
Aside from Andal, Jr., the other Ampatuans detained in connection with the massacre are Zaldy, then governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; Anwar, then Shariff Aguak mayor Anwar and Sajid, who won as vice governor in 2007; and son-in-law Akmad, then Mamasapano mayor.
Questions about Andal Sr.’s death
In a short program after the mass, floral offering and candle lighting at the symbolic gravesite, representatives of widows and children of the victims shared their pain over the delayed justice as well as their hopes that justice will be served under this administration.
Monet Salaysay, widow of Napoleon who edited the Clearview Gazette, said they have no other wish but justice.
In a highly emotional sharing peppered with expletives, Salaysay, a midwife, said she does not believe Andal Ampatuan, Sr., is dead. She said there is no proof that the patriarch was buried as media was barred from covering it.
Andal Sr.’s lawyer, Salvador Panelo (now Presidential Legal Counsel), announced nearly midnight of July 17, 2015 that his client passed away at around 10:02 p.m. at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City.
The patriarch was declared dead 42 days after he was admitted at a state-owned hospital in Quezon City for “advanced liver cancer” and four days after he lapsed into a coma after a massive heart attack.
Salaysay said to this day she does not believe the patriarch is dead. “Walang hindi nababayaran,” she added.
Salaysay called on President Duterte to also focus on their case. She said she supports and understands the President’s war on drugs but hopes he will also attend to victims of violence like them.
The victims’ children a day earlier participated in an arts workshop in General Santos City to express how they feel about the situation now, seven years later.
Ruschiel Faye Marie Morales sang a song she composed last year, calling for Hustisya (Justice) for the victims.
Ruschiel’s father Rosell, circulation manager of News Focus and her aunt, Marites Cablitas, a reporter of DXBX, were among the 32 media victims,
Many in the audience shed tears as the 15-year old student at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University strummed the guitar and sang “Wasak na wasak man ang aming puso/ di pa rin kami susuko/ ito’y pagsubok lang / Hustisya, Hustisya…” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)