Victims kin welcome verdict but Ampatuan Massacre still far from over – Rep. Mangudadatu

Marje Pelayo
Former Maguindanao Governor and current Congressman Esmael Mangudadatu (3-R) together with relatives of victims gesture to the media after the promulgation of the Maguindanao massacre at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, Philippines, 19 December 2019. EPA-EFE/MARK CRISTINO

MANILA, Philippines – The Quezon City Regional Trial Court has ordered conviction of the more than forty individuals involved in the mass murder of 58 individuals in 2009, the worst political massacre and the single deadliest attack against journalists in the world – the Ampatuan Massacre.

A total of 32 journalists were among the victims of the crime.

For their loved ones, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes has ended their agonizing quest for justice by finally placing behind bars those who were responsible for the gruesome massacre.

“Talagang mahirap ang sampung taon na iyon. Ang tagal noon. Ilang years iyon na tiniis na walang conviction pa (Those 10 long years were agonizing. For so many years we suffered as there was no conviction),” noted Karen Araneta, wife of radio reporter Henry Araneta.

“Today, happy na ako talaga (Today, I am more than happy),” she said.

“Umiyak kami. Apat na taga UNTV. Alam namin na nakamit ng mga asawa namin, ng mga kasama nila ang justice na hinahanap naming (We cried. Four from UNTV. We know that our spouses and their colleagues have finally found the justice we’re looking for),” expressed Editha Tiamzon, the wife of UNTV Vehicle’s driver Daniel Tiamzon when asked about her initial reaction upon hearing the verdict.

Jergin Malabanan couldn’t hold back her emotions as finally, their efforts have now been paid off.

“Ma, ito na iyon. Ito na ang hustisya na matagal na nating hinihintay (Mom, this is it. This is the justice that we have long been waiting for),” she said in between sobs for her mother, slain journalist Gina dela Cruz.

“Ito na ang (bunga) ng mga sakripisyo, ng ilang taon na ipinaglalaban naming (This is now the fruit of our sacrifices, of the many years that we fought for),” she added.

The victims’ legal counsel Atty. Harry Roque said the bereaved families were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and seem satisfied with the outcome of the trial.

“Nagagalak po ang mga pamilya, lima sa pitong Ampatuan ay nahusgahan na nagkasala,” Roque said.

“Natutuwa sila na ang parusa ay habambuhay na pagkakakulong without benefit of allowance of good conduct,” he added.

Four UNTV crew members were among those killed in the massacre – reporter Victor Nuñez; cameraman Mc Delbert Ariola; editor Jolito Evardo; and driver Daniel Tiamzon.

READ: Dispositive portion of Ampatuan massacre case ruling

Based on the 761-page Court decision, the families of the victims will receive a certain amount in civil indemnity and monetary damages.

Despite the conviction, the families are planning to appeal on the civil aspect of the case.

Meanwhile, Maguindanao Rep. Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu who lost his wife and siblings in the massacre, said the fight is still far from over because what the Court rendered today was only a partial decision on the case and some of the accused may still appeal the ruling to the higher courts.

“Matagal pa ito kasi may Court of Appeals, may Supreme Court (This is still far from over because there is still the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court),” he said.

“May second phase pa ang 50 at may mga at large pang 81 (This will have a second phase because there are 81 other suspects to remain at large),” he added. – MNP (with inputs from Nel Maribojoc)

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