• Families of massacre victims eye settlement with Ampatuans

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    SOME families of the victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre have reportedly agreed to settle with members of the Ampatuan clan who are accused in the celebrated case.

    Private prosecutor Harry Roque said 14 families of the victims signed a written authority in February allowing a “close associate of the Ampatuans” to negotiate the settlement.

    Members of the Ampatuan clan were accused of masterminding the carnage in Ampatuan town that left 58 people dead, 32 of them journalists.

    On November 23, 2009 about 100 gunmen, allegedly led by Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. opened fire on the convoy of Genalyn Mangudadatu, wife of then Buluan mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu. Genalyn was then on her way to file her husband’s certificate of candidacy for governor.

    Roque said under the arrangement, “the victims were to sign not just a waiver and quitclaim, but also an affidavit pinning the blame for the massacre” on Toto Mangudadatu.

    Mangudadatu was recently reelected Maguindanao governor.

    Roque warned that unless the government complies with its duty to pay compensation, “the victims will be tempted with schemes that may eventually cause a miscarriage of justice.”

    He said the families of other victims will seek the help of the United Nations (UN) in urging the Philippine government to provide compensation and speed up the trial.

    Roque said his clients will file a communication with the UN’s Human Rights Committee over the government’s failure to accord the victims their rights to an adequate legal remedy and compensation.

    “It’s been almost four years and there is still no end in sight to the criminal prosecution of the Ampatuans. In fact, the Philippine government took almost four years just to file the information for the 58th victim, Reynaldo Momay. This should give us a clue on how long the criminal proceedings will take,” he said.

    Momay, a photojournalist of the Mindanao-based newspaper Midland Review, was officially recognized as the 58th massacre victim by the Department of Justice (DoJ) only in July 2012.

    Momay’s remains have not been found.

    In elevating the case before the UN, Roque noted that the Human Rights Committee has faulted the Philippine government in its handling of the murder case of Navy Ensign Philip Pestano.

    Roque maintained that the government is obliged to compensate the massacre victims.

    He said the compensation is separate from the civil damages that the court may order the accused to pay to the private complainants.

    “The compensation that is due the victims is because it is the state itself that breached its obligation to protect and promote the right of the victims to live. This includes not just monetary compensation, but also all that may be required to restore the emotional and psychological well being of the victims,” Roque said.

    He added that the court has yet to rule on their motion asking the court to order government agencies to provide psycho-social support to the victims.

    On Monday, the Quezon City court threw out the motion to dismiss of one of the accused who claimed that he was a victim of mistaken identity.

    Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes denied for lack of merit the twin pleadings that sought to quash a return of arrest warrant and jail commitment order and the dropping of the cases against Datukan Malang Salibo.

    Salibo, one of the 195 accused, said he is not the Butukan Malang named in the charge sheet.

    He said he was not involved in the massacre because he was on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia from Nov. 7 to Dec. 19, 2009.

    In denying Salibo’s appeal, the court noted that while Salibo’s name does not appear in the charge sheet, it was indicated as Malang ‘s alias in the return of arrest warrant and the commitment order.

    Reyes added that PO1 Pia Kamidon, also an accused, claimed Salibo was with Ampatuan Sr. at the time of the massacre.

    The court said Salibo’s alibi will be discussed in a full-blown trial. His arraignment was set on June 26 at the Quezon City Jail Annex in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan in Taguig City.

    RITCHIE A. HORARIO with a report from JING VILLAMENTE
     

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