MANILA, Philippines – On the 11th anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, Malacañang on Monday vowed that government will continue hunting down suspects who are still at large and pursue charges against them.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement to commemorate the massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province that took place on Nov. 23, 2009.
“Ngayong araw, Nov. 23, ating inaalala po ang Maguindanao massacre, may labing-isang taon na ang nakalipas (Today, Nov. 23, we remember the Maguindanao massacre 11 years after it took place),” he said in a virtual Palace presser.
Roque pointed out that the families of victims’ quest for justice achieved under the Duterte administration after Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes ruled that the 197 accused are guilty of multiple counts of murder on Dec. 19, 2019.
Solis-Reyes found Datu Andal Unsay Ampatuan Jr., Zaldy Ampatuan, Anwar Ampatuan Sr., and several others guilty of 57 counts of murder and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years imprisonment without parole.
“Nakamit na po ang hustisya sa ilalim ng administrasyong Duterte. At least po nakakulong na ngayon yung magkapatid na Ampatuan. At ito po ay katarungan na rin para sa mga biktima at kamag-anak ng namatay na mahatulan ng guilty ang mga nagplano ng Maguindanao massacre (Justice has been achieved under the Duterte administration. At least the Ampatuan brothers are now in jail. This means justice for the victims and their kin),” he said.
He, however, acknowledged that many suspects in the massacre remain at large.
“May mga suspek pa rin po na hanggang ngayon na nakakatakas ngunit mahuhuli rin po ‘yan at papanagutin sa ilalim ng ating mga batas. (There are suspects who were able to escape but we will hunt them down and pursue charges against them). We will never forget,” he said.
The Maguindanao massacre has been dubbed as the world’s deadliest single attack on journalists, and the worst case of election-related violence in the country.
Fifty-eight people, including the wife, relatives, and supporters of then gubernatorial candidate and now Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, were killed and buried by armed men in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.
The victims were on their way to Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao to witness the filing of certificate of candidacy (COC) of Mangudadatu for the 2010 gubernatorial race when the crime was perpetrated.
Other victims include 32 journalists and media workers who were supposed to cover Mangudatu’s filing of COC in the local Commission on Elections office in the province.
Around 197 individuals, including 15 members of the Ampatuan clan, were initially implicated in the massacre, but only 117 were arrested while 80, a dozen of then surnamed Ampatuan, remained at large.
Out of the arrested, eight have died during the period of trial, including clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr. who succumbed to liver cancer in 2015.