PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has promised the families of the Maguindanao massacre victims that he will bring justice for their loved ones before his six-year term ends, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Friday.

Roque said Duterte had a “cordial, candid and impassioned” meeting with the families of the Maguindanao massacre victims at the Malacañang on Thursday, November 23, which marked the 8th anniversary of the bloody politics-related incident that killed 58 persons, including 32 media practitioners.

He said the families of the victims sought to have a meeting with the President to ask for his help in their quest for justice against the powerful members of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao, who have been accused of being the brains behind the massacre.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte met with the families of the victims in Malacañang, where he assured them that justice will be delivered under his watch,” Roque said in a statement.

“President Duterte, a former prosecutor himself, even shared his thoughts on the dynamics and intricacies of the justice system, noting that even the right of the accused to be heard is sacred under our democratic rules. Nevertheless, he expressed optimism that the strength of the case against them will eventually lead to a verdict favorable to the victims,” he added.

Roque said Duterte instructed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), and Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, Task Force executive director, as well as the state prosecutors handling the case, who were also present in the meeting, to make sure the principal accused will be convicted in the soonest possible time.

Duterte also instructed Special Assistant to the President, Secretary Christopher “Bong” Go, to facilitate employment, scholarship and financial assistance to the bereaved families.

“In return, the families expressed their profound gratitude to the President, who responded by saying that he is just fulfilling his duty as president to meet the ends of justice,” Roque said.

“Rest assured that us in the government, through PTFoMS, the DOJ and other stakeholders, will work without letup in ensuring justice for all victims of violence against members of the working press. We are committed to upholding the President’s promise that his government will never condone violence and repression of media,” he added.

A group of media workers, the wife of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, lawyers and supporters, were travelling in a convoy on November 23, 2009 towards Shariff Aguak to file Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy for the May 2010 elections.

Armed men stopped the convoy and killed 58 people, including 32 journalists and Mangudadatu's wife. A backhoe was used to bury their bodies, as well as the vehicles in the convoy.

At least 115 individuals allegedly involved in the massacre have been arrested while 81 are still at large.

Former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., the alleged architect of the massacre, had died on July 2015 at the National Kidney Transplant Institute due to heart attack. Three other suspects died in prison while two others are out on bail. (SunStar Philippines)