Cabaero: Decision on Ampatuan 58

Beyond 30

REGIONAL Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City is expected to issue a judgment on the Ampatuan massacre case on Dec. 19, 2019, after over nine years of trial.

The decision is being awaited by journalists and media organizations in the Philippines and abroad as the killing of 58 persons, including 32 journalists and media workers, on Nov. 23, 2009, has been described as the “deadliest strike against the press in history.”

The Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network wants the public to remember the case and stand with media organizations in demanding that justice is served. The network is composed of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, MindaNews and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

The network said the massacre underscored the dangers to journalists in the Philippines, especially to those in the community press.

The report of a fact-finding team of journalists in 2009 said the massacre claimed nearly an entire generation of journalists from the small print and broadcast communities of General Santos, Koronadal City and nearby areas. At least 22 of the 31 fatalities were married and had children, indicating an enormous need for continuing humanitarian assistance.

The report also pointed to the need to disarm clans and political families in the area. It said, “Apart from the Ampatuans, the Mangudadatus are widely held to be in command of their own private army. The two families were, until last year (2008), close allies.”

Most of the 58 victims were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town, when they were kidnapped and killed. Mangudadatu was running against Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of then Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and member of one of Mindanao’s leading Muslim political clans, in the gubernatorial elections scheduled in 2010.

Among those killed were Mangudadatu’s wife, his two sisters, lawyers and aides. Aside from the journalists, among those also killed were passing motorists who the killers must have thought as part of the Mangudadatu convoy.

The Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network initiated the signing of a petition asking the Supreme Court to allow the live coverage of the promulgation of judgment on the 58 counts of murder in the Ampatuan massacre cases. The petition said that permitting an open coverage would allow the victims’ families who are unable to travel to Manila to hear in real time the decision of Judge Solis-Reyes. Most of the family members reside in General Santos City, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao.

But it’s not just the victims’ families who await the decision. Journalists and media organizations for the protection of the press in the Philippines and abroad are also eagerly waiting for the end to the trial and for justice to be served.


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