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Still No Justice In Maguindanao Massacre

PHILIPPINES

MANILA – “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

This is the grief expressed by the families of 58 innocent people, including 32 Filipino journalists, who were brutally killed in what is known the world over as the infamous Maguindanao massacre that happened on that fateful day of November 23, 2009.

Seven years after that gruesome massacre, justice has been elusive as ever.

As the seventh anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre passed last month, their clarion call is justice for the 58 innocent victims, all of whom were on board a convoy of vehicles when they were ambushed by about 200 gunmen along a secluded highway in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines.

The 32 members of the media has joined the convoy to cover the filing of a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, who was to challenge Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of then Gov. Andal Ampatuan, Sr, who had ruled the province for many years.

The cadavers of the 58 victims were buried in shallow graves near the area of the massacre. Workers had to use a backhoe to bury the bodies in a bid to hide the killings.

To commemorate the seventh anniversary of the gory massacre, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and kin of the victims held a rally in Manila to protest the slow grind of justice tagged as the worst wholesale killings of 32 journalists in the world in a single incident.

NUJP labeled the carnage as a clear manifestation of “everything that is wrong in the rotten system of governance and disposition of justice in this country, where clans of warlords, criminal kingpins and corrupt politicians wield virtual powers of life and death in what amount to fiefdoms, their thievery and corruption tolerated by the centers of power that have to court their favors to effectively rule over the archipelago.”

 “It has been seven years, but with the large number of accused and the power that the Ampatuan clan still holds up to this day, they can buy justice and further delay the case. That’s why we should be more vigilant, continue fighting, and never forget,” said NUJP secretary general Dabet Panelo.

Records of the case show that of the 197 originally accused—15 of whom belong to the Ampatuan clan—114 have been arrested. A total of 112 accused have been arraigned and four, including clan patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr., have died in detention.

Three years ago, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 said she hoped to render a decision on the cases of some of the accused by 2016, before the end of the term of President Benigno Aquino III.

Aquino stepped down on June 30 after his six-year term expired with no decisions rendered.

NUJP said the massacre was a testament to “how entrenched this system of governance remains … in a country that never tires of proclaiming itself the freest and most democratic in this corner of the globe.”

“If anything, the state, which by rights should have taken on the burden of seeing to the futures of the widows, widowers and orphans of Ampatuan—after all its agents were responsible for this most heinous of crimes—has abandoned most of them, particularly those of our colleagues who were their families’ breadwinners, to lives of misery and uncertainty, reduced to wondering where to get their sustenance from day to day,” NUJP said in a statement.

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