PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has assured the families of the victims of the massacre in Maguindanao that those responsible would be convicted, his spokesman said on Friday.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque also said that the President promised employment and financial aid in a meeting with the families on November 23, the eighth anniversary of the killings that included 30 members of the media.
The massacre was considered the deadliest single attack against journalists in Philippine history, according to international press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), said the President assured the families that the courts should be able to issue a verdict on the cases of principal suspects Akmad Ampatuan Sr. and Anwar Ampatuan Sr. as soon as possible since these cases have been submitted for resolution.
“President Duterte met with the families of the victims where he assured them that justice would be delivered under his watch. The President gave specific instructions to Aguirre, the PTFoMS and the state prosecutors handling the case who were present, to see to it that a conviction would be handed down to the principal accused the soonest time possible,” said Roque, who served as counsel for the massacre victims.
“Rest assured that us in the government 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,” Roque said.
Roque also said that the Chief Executive tasked Special Assistant to the President, Secretary Christopher “Bong” Go, to arrange employment, scholarships and financial assistance to the families left behind.
“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. The meeting was cordial, candid and impassioned,” Roque said.
In the meeting was Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, who is also chairman of the PTFoMS.
The Public Information Office of the Supreme Court said the case, which involves murder charges against 103 individuals, was nearing its end as there were only three major issues that were left to be resolved: resolution of the remaining formal offers of evidence (FOE)-in-chief; demurrers to evidence; and termination of the presentation of evidence by the defense.
As of November 21, 2017, the Quezon City Regional trial Court Branch 221 has heard a total of 273 witnesses; 166 prosecution witnesses and 107 defense witnesses.