Justice chief assures conviction of Ampatuans in Maguindanao massacre

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday, November 23, assured the families of victims in the Maguindanao massacre that the principal accused in the case will be convicted “in the next few years.”

On the 7th anniversary of the politically-motivated murders on Wednesday, the secretary told reporters that the team of prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) was doing its best to speed up the proceedings and make sure former mayor Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr and his brother former governor Zaldy Ampatuan are convicted. 

Aguirre also issued a statement, saying: “The Department of Justice reiterates its commitment in the quest for the elusive justice of the families of the victims. We will do all that we can to make the wheels of justice turn faster not only in this case but in other cases.”

He said the DOJ also wanted to help the families of victims “find the grace to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives.” (READ: 7 years later: What happened to the Maguindanao massacre case)

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 has denied the Ampatuans' bail petitions. 

On November 23, 2009, a group allegedly headed Ampatuan Jr attacked the convoy of Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu of Buluan town, Maguindanao, when it reached Ampatuan town in the same province. Mangudadatu was with family, supporters, and mediamen, on his way to file his certificate of candidacy for governor, to challenge Ampatuan Jr who was being groomed by the father Ampatuan Sr.

Fifty-eight people – including Mangudadatu’s wife – were killed and left in shallow holes dug using local government-owned backhoe. 

197 persons have been accused, including Ampatuan Sr who since died; 106 are on trial. 

As of Wednesday, the Quezon City court had heard 232 witnesses: 131 (of the 147) prosecution witnesses; 43 (of the 300) defense witnesses; and 58 private complainants.

The multiple murder case is being heard by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221. She has been handling the case since January 2010 – two months of the massacre happened – but she recently accepted her nomination to the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan, causing fears that the resolution of the case will be delayed further. 

The Supreme Court noted that the trial is halfway through. Rappler.com