By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
(On this week’s issue we are giving this space to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet chapter.)
On November 23, 2009, the worst incident of electoral violence in the country and the deadliest single attack on the media workers happened in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Fifty-eight persons, including 32 media workers were massacred. A gruesome act orchestrated by a power-hungry warlord.
But nine years after, justice has not yet been served. Worse, journalists continue to be harassed, charged with trumped-up cases and murdered with impunity. To date, 185 journalists has been killed since 1986, 12 since President Rodrigo Duterte took office.
On November 5, 2018 Andal Ampatuan, Jr. submitted his formal offer of evidence, wrapping up the trial that started in September 2010. The Ampatuans were the suspected masterminds.
The late Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr.; the primary suspect was charged with murder together with 197 others including his sons Andal, Jr., Zaldy and Sajid.
Of the 198 suspects in the massacre, only 115 have been arrested and 112 have been arraigned, four of who died in the course of the proceedings, including Andal, Sr.
Out of the 112, 70 were allowed by the court to post bail, including Ampatuan Sr.’s youngest son, Sajid Islam Uy Ampatuan, who was freed in 2015 after posting P11.6-million bail. This number also included 17 police officers who were allowed by the court to post bail because of weak evidence.
The trial dragged on for almost nine years. Every single day, the agony of the families of the victims is prolonged. They have been deprived of justice for so long.
But relatives and supporters of the 58 victims who relentlessly demanded justice. On November 19, they gathered at the massacre site to offer flowers and prayers for their loved ones as they called for the conviction of the Ampatuans.
Today, November 22, we offer a mass for the Ampatuan victims as we join their relatives demand perpetrators be put behind bars.
We also continue to demand justice for other slain colleagues and all other victims of extrajudicial killings.
Stop the killings! Justice Now!
End impunity!# nordis.net