Journalists and families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre gathered in General Santos City on Saturday, November 20, to mark the 12th year of the ghastly carnage that took the lives of 58 people, including 32 media workers, in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.
Their slogan: “Continue the fight for justice! Fight for 58!”
They decided to forego the usual holding of the commemoration right at the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, in keeping with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and due to security concerns at the massacre site.
The Justice Now Movement, an association of families of media workers killed in the Ampatuan massacre, said they will continue to seek justice as 75 of those convicted remain at large, and appeals by the accused continue to slow down the dispensation of justice.
Emily Lopez, JNM chairperson, said their fight for justice would continue for the families of the victims, including another media worker, Bebot Momay, who has remained missing to this day.
Momay was a photojournalist of the Midland Review based in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. He is feared to be dead.
Momay was among those in the convoy of relatives and supporters of the then-Buluan vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, and journalists, who were massacred.
Lawyer Nena Lopez, one of the counsels for the victims’ families, said the cases were still on appeal.
Lopez said they were also preparing to file more cases against the Ampatuans and their followers.
Jonathan de Santos, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said his group would continue to be vigilant because the previous court decision can still be overturned in favor of the accused.
Ivy Orina, whose brother Jephon Cadagdagan was among those killed, said she was beginning to lose hope that justice would be served.
“It has been 12 years already and we still have not seen justice. If the accused keep on appealing, what are we to do?” she said.
Orina said they hope that the next administration would help in speeding up the resolution of the cases, and include the Ampatuan massacre as part of the government agenda.
In December 2019, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes handed down a guilty verdict against some of the accused for the 2009 carnage.
In that decision, Reyes ordered Andal Ampatuan Jr., his brother Zaldy and Anwar, and 25 other principals, to pay the heirs of 57 victims a total of P155.5 million as civil indemnity, and for moral, exemplary, temperate, and actual damages, and for loss of earning capacity.
The court’s decision was appealed by the Ampatuans.
Unlike in previous years, Saturday’s commemoration rites were simple. There was a Mass officiated at the Passionist novitiate, and a press conference organized by the NUJP and Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Coalition. – Rappler.com
Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.