PH Senators hail guilty verdict for prime suspects in Ampatuan massacre

Robie de Guzman
A handout photo made available by the Supreme Court – Public Information Office (SC-PIO) shows a court employee (R) reading the verdict for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre at the trial venue inside a prison facility Taguig city, Philippines, 19 December 2019. EPA-EFE/SC-PIO

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino senators on Thursday expressed elation over the guilty verdict handed down by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) against several members of the powerful Ampatuan clan and others involved in the gruesome killing of 57 people in 2009.

“Justice won today,” Senator Ralph Recto said in a statement, while Senator Joel Villanueva said the decision restores the public’s faith in the country’s justice system.

“I salute Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes for her dedication and her courage to stand for what is right and just,” he said.

Villanueva also expressed hope that the government will continue to hunt down some 80 suspects who remain at large.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the case ruling has been a day too long in coming but is still a step towards the full measure of justice.

“My heart goes out to the families of all the victims who have suffered for far too long. I am glad that this decision finally saw the light of day, and the truth is this decision should have come sooner,” she said in a statement.

“The world has waited ten long years, and finally, we have taken the first step towards healing, accountability and justice. But this is not where the road to justice ends,” she added.

Senator Imee Marcos also called the guilty verdict for some of the Ampatuan family members a triumph for justice.

“Bagamat masasabing napakailap ng hustisya dahil na rin sa tagal ng paglilitis, ang promulgasyon na isinagawa ngayon ay positibong aksyon para sa mga biktima, at sa kalaunan ay tuluyang mapanagot ang iba pang akusado sa Maguindanao massacre,” she said in a separate statement.

Senator Leila De Lima also lauded the case decision, as well as the efforts of presiding judge Solis-Reyes.

“Judge Reyes will be remembered for how she tirelessly weighed and appreciated the facts, which led to the conviction of the Maguindanao mass murderers,” she said. “This day will forever be etched in history as the day justice did not tolerate homicidal and monstrous abuse of power.”

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, empathized with the victims’ families who waited a decade to get justice for their slain loved ones.

“I admire them for their strength and their faith. We continue to pray for peace in their hearts,” he said.

The 10-year old case stemmed from the grisly attack on November 23, 2009, that resulted in the death of 57 people, including 31 media workers.

Originally, there were 58 victims in the massacre but the 58th person, photographer Reynaldo Momay of the local paper Midland Review, was declared missing after his body was not found in the scene.

The ambush happened when they were on their way to a local Commission on Elections office to cover the filing of then gubernatorial bet Esmael Mangudadatu – a political rival of the Ampatuans.

The Ampatuan massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence and attack on press freedom in the Philippines.

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