Palace admits slow justice for Maguindanao massacre victims

MAGUINDANAO. On November 23, 2009, 58 individuals were shot dead and buried while still onboard their vehicles in what has become known as the Maguindanao massacre. (File Photo)

NINE years after the deadliest attack on journalists in Maguindanao, Malacañang admitted Thursday, November 22, that justice remains elusive for the 58 massacre victims.

"We're not surprised that the wheels of justice in this country grind so slow. Many cases take so long," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who served as former legal counsel of the individuals accused of being behind the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, told a press conference.

The Maguindanao massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 individuals including 32 media workers, occurred on November 23, 2009.

Members of the Ampatuan clan are facing criminal charges for allegedly being the masterminds behind the cold-blooded killing of the 58 individuals.

The 58 victims included 32 media workers, the wife of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, lawyers and supporters. They were in a convoy to Shariff Aguak town to file Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy for the May 2010 elections.

A group of armed men stopped the convoy, shot them dead and used a backhoe to bury them while they were still onboard the vehicles.

Before the country commemorates the ninth anniversary of the infamous Maguindanao massacre, Panelo guaranteed that the government, through the Department of Justice (DOJ), is doing its best to attain justice for the families and victims of the mass killing.

"What's important to us is justice will prevail. Rule of law will have to be observed regardless of who the persons are involved in any particular case," the Palace official said.

"The DOJ is the one responsible for prosecuting the case and so it is doing its job, its level best, to speed up the prosecution of the case," he added.

On Monday, November 19, acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon said the families of massacre victims will soon hear the verdict on the accused of perpetrating the mass killings.

There are a total of 197 accused in the massacre. Around 103 of the 197 accused are currently undergoing trial for multiple murders, including prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Aside from Ampatuan Jr., others accused of the same charges were his father, the late Andal Ampatuan Sr., and his brothers Zaldy Ampatuan and Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan.

Datu Sajid was allowed to post bail by the court in January 2015 while Ampatuan Sr. died in detention on July 17, 2015.

Asked if a resolution on Maguindanao massacre case will be issued anytime soon, Panelo said, "It depends on the stage of the case. It depends. And it depends on the prosecutor."

Pressed again if he thinks the accused will be convicted, the Palace official said the ruling will depend on the "basis of evidence."

"We can always speculate. You know the court will always rule on the basis of evidence. That has been the rule and that has been the training of all lawyers," he said. (SunStar Philippines)


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