Ampatuan massacre

‘No one can ever tell Maguindanao massacre victims’ kin to move on’ – Mangudadatu

Mara Cepeda

NOT EASY TO MOVE ON. Maguindanao 2nd District Representative Toto Mangudadatu talks to reporters on December 19, 2019.

File photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Maguindanao Representative Toto Mangudadatu says the lives of the massacre victims and their witnesses will remain under threat as long as other suspects remain free

Maguindanao 2nd District Representative Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu said the pain remains unimaginable for Ampatuan massacre victims’ relatives and that no one can ever tell them to move on from the tragedy.

Mangudadatu – whose wife and two sisters were among the 58 killed during the bloody massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao – made this statement on Monday, November 23, the 11th anniversary of the gruesome killing.

“Losing our loved ones that day has totally changed our lives in ways that others can only fathom and imagine. I cannot stress enough how my family was affected and how my children, who suffered the most, contend life with their own grief,” Mangudadatu said.

“And because of this pain, walang sinuman ang puwedeng magsasabi sa atin na, “Nakamit mo na ang hustisya. Move on na,’” he added. 

(And because of this pain, no one can ever tell us, “You have achieved justice. Move on.”)

In 2009, the private army of the Ampatuans, Mangudadatu’s political rivals, killed his relatives, aides, lawyers, and supporters who were on the way to file his certificate fo candidacy for governor. Journalists who were part of the convoy were also murdered.

The Maguindanao massacre has been considered as the most brutal politically motivated killing and the worst attack on journalists in Philippine history. 

It was only in December last year when a Quezon City court handed down a guilty verdict on 28 people –  including masterminds Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan – for 57 counts of murder in the gory massacre of 2009.

But a total of 56 people, including Maguindanao town mayor Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan, were acquitted. Datu Sajid Islam and 51 others were acquitted due to reasonable doubt. 

On Monday, Mangudadatu said the lives of the victims’ relatives and their witnesses will remain under threat as long as the other suspects remain at large. 

“The failure to bring all 80 suspects to trial, including police officers and soldiers, also poses a great risk for the victims’ family members. Our witnesses too are still plagued by threats and has had several brushes with death even after the verdict was affixed – and this will continue on as long as these suspects remain free,” Mangudadatu said. 

“Kaya’t huwag po tayong magsawang humingi ng awa at proteksyon sa Diyos at manalangin na sila ay madakip sa lalo’t madaling panahon,” he added. 

(That’s why we should not stop asking for mercy and protection from God and to pray that they would be nabbed at the soonest possible time.)

Mangudadatu thanks Duterte, Judge Reyes

Mangudadatu also thanked President Rodrigo Duterte, under whose term saw the guilty verdict handed down to the Ampatuan brothers. 

The congressman recalled that it was the helicopter lent to them by then-Davao City mayor Duterte that allowed local authorities to locate where the massacre took place. 

“This is why I am whole-heartedly and graciously grateful for this administration and for our justice system for providing for us the justice that we have elusively sought for in the past 10 years. From day one, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has been there for us,” Mangudadatu said.

He also thanked Quezon City Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes for her bravery to take on the case and “for standing up and for courageously seeing the end of this cause when your predecessors could not.”

A few hours before Mangudadatu’s statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said justice has already been served under the Duterte administration because “at least” the Ampatuan brothers have been convicted for murder. Roque had represented relatives of several victims of the massacre. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.