MANILA -- After the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday recommended the filing of 57 counts of murder against former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and 196 others.

In a 78-page resolution, the eight-man DOJ preliminary investigation panel led by Senior State Prosecutor Leo Dacera said there is enough evidence to press murder charges against the Ampatuan patriarch, suspended Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Datu Akmad “Tato” Ampatuan Sr., Datu Norodin Ampatuan, and Datu Jimmy Ampatuan.

The case stemmed from the alleged involvement of the powerful clan to the November 23 massacre, where the wife of Maguindanao gubernatorial contender Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, journalists and supporters were killed in Ampatuan town. The killings are considered the worst political violence in Philippine history.

The resolution also tagged the following as direct participants in the massacre: Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., Datu Kanor Ampatuan, Datu Bahnarin A. Ampatuan, Datu Mama Ampatuan, Datu Sajid Islam U. Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan Jr., Datu Ulo Ampatuan, Datu Ipi Ampatuan, Datu Harris Ampatuan, Datu Moning Ampatuan, Mogira Hadji Anggulat, Parido Zangkala Gogo, Jun Pendatun, Kagi Faizal and Sukarno Badal.

“These respondents were plainly pinpointed as among those who fired their high-powered firearms which consequently ended the lives of their intended victims...Considering such positive identification of these respondents as direct participants in the commission of the crime of murder, they should be indicted,” the resolution stated.

The DOJ also implicated some members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for allegedly being co-conspirators of the massacre.

“There is direct evidence that these respondents agreed to commit the crime. Their acts and the attendant circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime unveil a common aim that would make all of them co-principals in the crime committed,” the resolution added.

University of the Philippines professor Harry Roque, counsel for the slain journalists, said the recommendation is just the first step.

“We need convictions and not just indictments. In any case, it is good news. The Department of Justice should now build an airtight case,” Roque said in a text message to Sun.Star.

Sun.Star tried to contact PNP spokesman Leonardo Espina and AFP spokesman Romeo Brawner Jr., for comment but to no avail as of posting time Tuesday. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)