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No justice yet for victims of Maguindanao carnage

/ 04:04 AM January 05, 2016

WITH only six months left before he steps down, President Aquino has reneged on his promise to deliver justice for the 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre, according to a lawyer representing some of the victims.

Lawyer Harry Roque, who represents the relatives of the media members killed in the Nov. 23, 2009, massacre, said his clients will push for the promulgation of the charges against Zaldy Ampatuan before the end of Mr. Aquino’s term.

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“He (Aquino) betrayed my clients who were the only victims who endorsed him for the presidency. He reneged on his promise to accord them justice,” said the lawyer.

“Aquino did not do anything to hasten the process. His position has been consistent: It’s in the hands of the court,” Roque said.

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Monday marked the sixth anniversary of the start of the landmark case, in which 198 accused initially stood trial for 58 charges of murder.

The massacre, described as the worst case of election-related violence and the worst incident of media killings in the country, was allegedly masterminded by the Ampatuan clan which carried out the attack against the rival Mangudadatu family which was challenging their power in Maguindanao.

Fifty-eight people who were on their way to file the candidacy papers of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu were kidnapped and brutally killed. Mangudadatu was challenging former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., the son of the then Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in 2010.

Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, his two sisters, his female lawyers and staff, and at least 34 media members were among those killed. Their remains were buried in a hill in Sitio Masalay, the bodies almost unrecognizable. Some of the women were found to have been raped. The body of journalist, Reynaldo Momay, was never found.

Partial decision

The massacre is alleged to have been led by Andal Jr. himself, which he denied when he testified last month at the trial.

Quezon City Judge Jocelyn Reyes earlier said she would hand down a partial decision before Aquino steps down.

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However, the trial has been met with several delays, the most recent being the withdrawal of Andal Ampatuan Jr.’s lawyer from the case.

With Andal Jr. having no legal counsel, the development is seen as another delay in the trial.

“The court should not anymore allow Andal Jr. to move for postponements on his rebuttal evidence. Before the elections, the proceedings on his case should already be completed,” noted private prosecutor Romel Bagares.

Not a single verdict has been handed down so far although the court is aiming for a partial judgment for some of the accused, such as the Ampatuan family members.

In the six years since the massacre, the piles of folders containing documents, pleadings and orders have reached more than 140.

More than 150 witnesses have been presented, with 113 out of 197 accused arrested.

Three accused have died in detention, the latest being Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the primary accused and the clan patriarch who died of complications from liver cancer.

Roque said the prosecution has agreed to move for the promulgation of the murder charges against Zaldy Ampatuan since the trial against him is almost done. With a report from Gil Cabacungan

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TAGS: Maguindanao massacre, Media killings, Nation, news
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