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NUJP: Despite Ampatuan conviction, fight is not yet over

MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Thursday, December 19, said the conviction of the Ampatuan brothers over the 2009 massacre is a "significant and landmark step" but said the fight is not yet done.

"This is long overdue but their guilt has become official," NUJP said in a statement. "The decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court is not yet final until the Supreme Court rules so." 

QC RTC Branch 212, under Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes, found the Ampatuan brothers Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy guilty of 57 counts of murder in the 2009 massacre which saw 58 dead, including 32 journalists. 

They were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole. This means imprisonment for the principal accused of up to 30 years, factoring in their 10 years of preventive imprisonment.

NUJP lauded the families left behind who did not succumb to "threats, bribes, and harassment and instead stood their ground in fighting for justice for their loved ones."

"The convictions and indemnification can never bring back the lives of the victims and erase the pain of the families who lost their loved ones," it said. "But these, in some way, alleviate the suffering that they have endured for the past 10 years."

Soldier on

Only 28 people were convicted for 57 counts of murder in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre. A total of 55 people, including Maguindanao town mayor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, were acquitted. (READ: 55 acquitted, 28 convicted in Ampatuan massacre)

One of the 58 victims, journalist Reynaldo Momay Jr was not included in the decision. Reyes, in the verdict, said that "none of the witnesses recovered the cadaver of Momay in the massacre site." (READ: 58th Ampatuan massacre victim forgotten in verdict?

"Justice is not yet complete for Bebot and until the last of those responsible with blood in their hands are made accountable," NUJP said. 

"We must soldier on until the last of those responsible are behind bars," the group added. 

The trial that spanned a decade has been criticized for the delay that saw a judge withdrawing, the case reraffled, and deaths of witnesses and accused. ([WATCH] Trial of the decade: Highlights of Ampatuan massacre case)

The massacre has cemented the image of the Philippine as one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist in. It is also considered as the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines. (TIMELINE: The long road to justice for Ampatuan massacre victims)

"The conviction of the key accused is also due to the unity and steadfastness of Filipino media workers and media groups in the country and abroad who have sustained the campaign and efforts for the past 10 years to make sure that the massacre will not be forgotten and that justice will be achieved no matter how long and hard it takes," NUJP said. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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