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Kin of Ampatuan massacre victims hopeful on judgment day

MANILA, Philippines – They have waited a decade for this day.

On Friday, December 19, dozens of family members of victims in the brutal Maguindanao massacre arrived one by one in Camp Bagong Diwa for a verdict that, for them, would indicate the state of justice in the country.

A decade ago 58 were killed in Ampatuan, Maguindanao in what has been described as the most deadly election-related violence in Philippine history. It is judgment day.

Some family members remained hopeful. Others felt helpless.

Noemi Parcon didn’t shed a tear when she faced the cameras. Her husband, Joel Parcon, was among the 32 journalists slain in the slaughter. Facing reporters, she said she had God on her side.

We are 100% expecting na mananalo kami sa kaso na ‘to (We are 100% expecting that we will win in this case),” Parcon said.

She lamented that the decision took so long, but she said the trial has, so far, demonstrated that a guilty verdict was imminent – if not for all, at least the principal accused: the Ampatuan brothers.

CONFIDENT. Noemi Parcon, wife of slain journalist Joel Parcon, arrives in Camp Bagong Diwa on December 19, 2019. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

CONFIDENT. Noemi Parcon, wife of slain journalist Joel Parcon, arrives in Camp Bagong Diwa on December 19, 2019.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Jergin Malabanan, the daughter of slain journalist Gina dela Cruz, expected the same result.

Hindi po kami nawalan ng pag-asa. Alam naman po namin na dadating itong araw na ito. Natagalan nga pero alam ng lahat na dadating itong araw na ito (We never lost hope. We knew this day would come. It took a long time but we knew this day would come),” Malabanan said as she failed to hold back tears.

She was only 15 when she was forced to be the madre de pamilya for her siblings after their mother was killed. She said she has come to fulfill a promise for her mother. (TIMELINE: The long road to justice for Maguindanao massacre victims)

Nangako ako na ipaglalaban ko po hanggang sa dulo ng makakaya ko po. Habang buhay po ako, ipaglalaban ko yung hustisya niya (I promised to fight as best I can. As long as I’m alive I will fight for justice),” Jergin said.

Outside the squeezing crowd sat a woman who wore all black. Nenita Oquendo came all the way from General Santos City to witness if justice will be served to her slain husband Catalino and daughter Cynthia Oquendo.

Breaking away from the narratives of hope offered by the first two women, Oquendo did not appear to expect much.

Kung ako lang, sa gusto ng Panginoon, maconvict na sila nang husto para ma-rest ang aming damdamin, ma-rest ang mga namatay,” Oquendo said. (For me alone, if God will allow it, I would convict them all so that our grief would be put to rest, so that the killed could finally find rest, too.)

Tempering her hope, she added, “Hindi ako masyadong kampante kasi ang justice system sa Pilipinas is moving eh. Ganito na, yet sa unahan iba na.” (I am not very confident because the justice system here in the Philippines moves. This is the decision now, but as it moves forward, it can change.) – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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