Lawyer sees conviction for most of accused in Maguindanao massacre
MANILA, Philippines – Lawyer Nena Santos, who represented 38 of the 58 victims of the infamous Maguindanao massacre in 2009, expressed confidence that most of the accused would be convicted by the court.
According to Santos, while they could not assure that there would be a 100 percent conviction for all 104 respondents in the case, they believe they have presented enough evidence to convict the main accused.
“Yes we are,” she said during a talk about the Maguindanao massacre on Tuesday. “We are the prosecution and we know our evidence, and we know we have submitted to the honorable court the evidence to convict the accused.”
“We are not sure of a 100 percent (conviction), but we are sure that the principal accused would be convicted,” she added.
The Maguindanao massacre happened last November 22, 2009, when a convoy composed of relatives of then-Buluan town vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and the members of media was gunned down along the highway in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan in Maguindanao.
The convoy was supposed to deliver the certificate of candidacy of Mangudadatu in Shariff Aguak, as he challenged the Ampatuan clan’s grip on the gubernatorial post. Several people who happened to pass by the area during that day also became victims of the attacks.
Several members of the Ampatuan family, including late former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son, Andal “Unsay” Jr. were considered as principal accused in the murder case, which took almost 10 years before it was wrapped up.
Santos said the long period needed to address the case was due to changes of the lawyers for the defense and attempts to curtail the testimonies of the prosecution’s witnesses.
“Well marami ang dahilan, at the onset napakaraming mga akusado, ang daming defense counsels, ang daming changes of lawyers, ang daming motions filed, ang daming kasong finile against the witnesses, against the lawyers of the prosecution,” Santos explained.
“Ang daming witnesses na tinakot, pinatay, ang daming witness na pina-recant, and ang daming panahon ang ginugol para i-resolve ang pending motions ng defense na napakarami,” she added.
(Well there are many reasons, at the onset, there are several accused, there are so many defense counsels, change of lawyers, the number of motions filed, and cases filed against the witnesses and the lawyers of the prosecution. There are also several witnesses who were threatened, killed, and forced to recant their testimonies. A lot of time was also spent in resolving the defense’s numerous motions.)
Earlier, Santos said that should the Quezon City Regional Trial Court fail to convict any of the accused, it would mean the death of the press freedom of the country, as 32 of the 58 victims are journalists — making it the world’s single deadliest attack on media persons.
Last August, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra previously said that they are expecting that the case would be resolved before 2019 ends, in time for the 10th anniversary of the massacre.
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