Ampatuan conviction shows the powerful are not above the law – Robredo

Sofia Tomacruz
Ampatuan conviction shows the powerful are not above the law – Robredo

LeAnne Jazul

'Ang batas at katarungan ay walang pinipiling pangalan, maski na ang mga nasa kapangyarihan,' says Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo hailed the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s decision to convict most of the Ampatuan brothers who were principal suspects in the murder of 58 people, saying the verdict showed no one is above the law.

Paalala rin ito sa atin na ang lahat ng kasalanan ay may panahon din ng pananagutan, kahit minsa’y matagal ang paghihintay. Ang batas at katarungan ay walang pinipiling pangalan, maski na ang mga nasa kapangyarihan,” Robredo said in a statement on Thursday, December 19.

(This serves as a reminder to us that all will have to answer for their crimes in time, even if it sometimes means waiting for a long while. The law and justice does not choose names, even among the powerful.)

She added, “Mahigit sampung taon matapos ang trahedya, tila isang napakalaking tinik ang natanggal sa ating mga puso.” (More than 10 years since after the tragedy, a huge thorn has been removed from our hearts.)

What was the decision? In what has been described as the trial of the decade, QC RTC Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes sentenced Ampatuan brothers Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years in jail without parole for the killing of 57 people, 32 of whom were journaists, on November 23, 2009.

The long-awaited decision in the Ampatuan massacre case was handed down in a tightly-secured courtroom inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig. It saw 28 convicted of 57 counts of murder and sentenced to 40 years. Meanwhile, 15 were sentenced to 6-10 years for being accessories to crime, while 55 were acquitted – including Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan.

Hope for the rule of law

The verdict, Robredo said, demonstrated there was hope yet for the Philippines’ justice system, which has been described as notoriously slow and has been criticized for disadvantaging those with limited resources to pursue cases.

Pagkatapos ng mahigit isang dekada, nagagalak tayong malaman na nakamtan na ng mga pamilya ng mga biktima ng Ampatuan Massacre ang pinakaasam nating hustisya…. Hindi man naging madali ang proseso at mabagal man ang naging pag-usad ng kaso, ang hatol na ito ay nagbibigay sa atin ng pag-asa na posible pa ring makamit ang katarungan sa loob ng ating sistema ng hustisya,” the Vice President said.

(After 10 years, we are relieved to know that families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre have been delivered justice…. The process wasn’t easy, and the case moved slowly, but this decision gives us hope that it is possible to receive justice in our judicial system.)

The Vice President said she believed the outcome was also one that was fitting for the gory massacre, which is the most deadly election-related violence case and single deadliest attack on journalists in the Philippines.

She added: “Masalimuot man ang naging paghihintay, ngunit ngayong araw, nasa panig ng tama at matuwid ang tagumpay. Nakikiisa tayo sa mga mahal sa buhay ng mga biktima ng Ampatuan Massacre at sa buong sambayanang Pilipino sa pagdiriwang ng makasaysayang hatol na ito.”

(The wait was difficult and long, but today the side of what is right and just won. We join the loved ones of victims of the Ampatuan Massacre and the Filipino people in celebrating this historic verdict.) –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.