Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao vowed on Sunday to continue “until our last breath” the fight for justice for the people killed in the Maguindanao.
He made the vow before a huge crowd of sympathizers and families of the slain victims who gathered to obscure the fourth anniversary of the massacre at the graves of the victims in Kidapawan City.
Mangudadatu and his siblings decried the slow judicial process for the victims of the carnage as promised by the Aquino administration as they also reported the alleged biases of some police officials.
Mangudadatu, who lost his wife Jenalyn and two sisters Eden and Farhana in the carnage, expressed dismay over the alleged link of Sr. Supt. Rodelio Jocson, police director of Maguindanao, with the principal suspects notably former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.
Jocson, he said, has been allegedly “using” a vehicle owned by the detained mayor and that because of Jocson’s alleged link with Ampatuan “failed” to cause the arrest of other suspects in the Ampatuan family.
“They [suspected younger members of the Ampatuan family]have been roaming around openly,” Mangudadatu said citing that the recent separate arrests of three indicted suspects were made by Army troops and elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Only seven incumbent mayors, mostly related or allied with the Mangudadatus, attended the gathering.
Sarip Ampatuan, half brother of former governor and prime suspect Andal Ampatuan Sr., joined for the second time the commemorative event.
Even Chief Supt. Charles Calima, police director for Region 12, and Sultan Kudarat provincial Police Head Rex de la Rosa joined and helped secure the gathering but not the provincial director of the Maguindanao police Jocson and Chief Supt. Noel de los Reyes, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who should be leading the security forces in the event.
“This is not a political event . . . but a gathering of people seeking justice,” Calima told The Manila Times.
Jocson admitted having used earlier the vehicle of detained Ampatuan Jr. for the purpose of penetrating Ampatuan-influenced areas in search of other suspects still at large. Jocson said he was willing to be reassigned.
Rep. Sajid Mangudadatu of Maguindanao second district, brother of the governor, recalled in his speech the story of the massacre as he lamented that there had been unreported killings of trial witnesses and that relatives of slain massacre victims were pressured either by threats or bribes to desist from further testifying in court.
Mangudadatu also complained of the alleged efforts by some local political quarters to dissuade the public from sympathizing in the annual commemoration rites of the massacre.
One such distraction to the event was the simultaneous crowning on Saturday of Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, head of the Army’s Sixth Infantry Division, as “Honorary Sultan” of Maguin-danao in ceremonies attended reportedly by some of the 36 incumbent provincial mayors.
Assemblyman Khadaffy Mangudadatu, another sibling of the governor, said he has already submitted a bill to the ARMM legislature to declare November 23 each year as a holiday in Maguindanao to commemorate the massacre.
“We are doing every moral, peaceful and legal efforts to achieve justice . . . We will continue the struggle up to our last breath,” the region lawmaker said.
Mangudadatu, near tears while leading a separate prayer for “divine intervention” in their clamor for justice, asked the local media, which lost 32 of its members, to chronicle the truth and prevent a gradual erosion of public enthusiasm in the demand for justice in the world’s worst election-related crime.