GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The daughter of the last massacre victim recognized by the court hearing the case is calling on other relatives of the victims of the grisly murders not to give the Ampatuans breathing room in their quest for justice.
From her home in the US where she now works as a nurse, Reynafe Momay Castillo said the latest attempt by the Ampatuans to allegedly convince 14 complainants to drop the cases against them is a ploy to derail their ongoing prosecution.
“Huwag natin hayaan na mabigyan ng puwang ang mga kalaban na sirain tayo. Na sirain ang kredibilidad ng kaso (Let us not give our adversaries the opportunity to destroy us. To destroy the credibility of the [murder] case,” Castillo said in a video message posted on Facebook.
Castillo made the emotional appeal after lawyer Harry Roque told the media that an attempt was made in February this year to extract quit claims and waivers from some of the 32 families of journalists and media workers who were slain in November 2009, in what is now infamously known as the Maguindanao massacre.
Roque said a negotiator who is close to the Ampatuans reportedly obtained an authority to negotiate from the 14 families who were also made to sign several documents in exchange for a P50 million (US$1.2 million) settlement.
The documents were signed without the knowledge and consent of their lawyers. No copies of the documents were left in the possession of the families.
The negotiations apparently fell through as the said negotiator was killed 2 weeks after he spoke with the families who agreed to reportedly strike a deal with the Ampatuans.
Roque did not identify the families who signed the documents.
He is flying to General Santos on Wednesday, June 26, to confer with his clients and to verify the report.
Castillo said this is not the first attempt allegedly made by the Ampatuans to settle with the families of the Maguindanao massacre.
According to her, the families of 2 media victims went to Cotabato City in January 2011 to allegedly settle with the Ampatuans but the deal dis not push through because they were only offered P100,000 each.
Most of the media victims in the Maguindanao massacre were breadwinners and the families they left behind are struggling to meet their daily sustenance.
Castillo said she understands the hardships the families are undergoing but said these should not be reason enough to drop the case against the Ampatuans.
She appealed for understanding and said majority of them have stood behind Justice Now, the group organized by the families of media victim to pursue the prosecution of the Ampatuans.
Castillo and her husband, including their 2 sons, are now US immigrants. She however said she will continue to support the quest for justice.
Castillo is the daughter of Reynaldo Momay, a photographer of local community paper Midland Review, who joined the convoy of journalists and relatives of then Maguindano gubernatorial candidate Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu on their way to the provincial capitol to file the latter’s certificate of candidacy on November 23, 2009.
They were however stopped at a highway checkpoint some 5 kilometers away from the provincial capitol.
They were brought to a remote village where they were mercilessly gunned down.
A total of 58 people were killed in the massacre, including teh wife of Mangudadatu and hsi two sisters..
Witness said the armed men who flagged down the convoy were led by Andal Ampatuan Jr. who would have been Mangudadatu’s rival for the gubernatorial race.
Fifty eight murder cases are now filed against Andal and 196 others including his father and namesake Andal Sr, former governor of the province, two brothers and a brother in law.
At least 102 are now detained while the rest have remained at large.
Most of the Ampatuans have already been arraigned.
In May, the trial court hearing the massacre case arraigned the Ampatuans for the murder of Momay. He was the last of the 58 to be recognized as a victim of the massacre.
Momay’s body was never found but a set of dentures and a supposed list of the media group that the joined the convoy were the only physical evidences that proved Momay was with the group.
Mangudadatu was eventually elected governor of the province. He was recently re-elected. – Rappler.com
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