HRW: Maguindanao massacre verdict should spur reforms, end private armies
MANILA, Philippines – International group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the government to use the conviction of the accused in the Maguindanao massacre to initiate political and social reforms, aside from crushing private armies.
According to HRW, the guilty verdict handed down by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court against several members of the Ampatuan clan should help relatives of victims attain justice.
“This momentous verdict should help provide justice to the families of the victims, and build toward greater accountability for rights abuses in the country,” HRW Deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson said in a statement on Thursday.
“Advocates should use this verdict to spur further political and judicial reforms to ultimately end the impunity that has plagued the country for far too long. More broadly, this verdict should prompt the country’s political leaders to finally act to end state support for ‘private armies’ and militias that promotes the political warlordism that gave rise to the Ampatuans,” he added.
Earlier, the court found Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr., a former Maguindanao town mayor, his siblings and several other accused, including several police officers guilty of murdering 57 people in 2009 — including 31 media workers.
Those killed were aboard a convoy set to file the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan town mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who was challenging the Ampatuan clan’s grip on the Maguindanao gubernatorial post when they were ambushed along the highway of Sitio Masalay.
Aside from Ampatuan Jr., his brother’s former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Datu Zaldy “Puti” U. Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan Sr were also found guilty. All are sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years of imprisonment.
Other still at-large suspects, amounting to around 80, have been ordered by the court to be arrested. Meanwhile, Sajid Islam Ampatuan, Datu Akmad Tato Ampatuan, and Jimmy Ampatuan were acquitted by the court.
Edited by MUF
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