A lawmaker is urging the Aquino administration to speed up the prosecution of the Mindanao Massacre case.
Quezon City 6th District Rep. Christopher Belmonte filed House Resolution 520 calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “speed up the prosecution and pursue the conviction of guilty parties.
The case has stalled in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
In the morning of November 23, 2009, 58 people—32 of them media workers—were abducted and brutally murdered while on their way to filing the certificate of candidacy of then-Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.
Four years on, only 104 out of 195 accused were indicted, and only eight of them were from the Ampatuan family, the political clan suspected to have ordered the slaughter.
Eighty-eight suspects still remain at large and three vital witnesses to the case have been killed.
Belmonte said the respondents intentionally stall the proceedings by filing numerous petitions for bail.
“The multiple murder charges against the accused remain tied up in petitions for bail, countless motions and counter-motions, and tactics deliberately intended to stall the proceedings,” he said.
Belmonte asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to provide adequate assistance to the victims’ families.
The families of the victims, who need to cope with the harsh realities of life after losing their breadwinners, hardly receive any support from government, and are coming under intense pressure to agree to settlements, he added.
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) laments the slowness of the case despite the pressure from different local and international groups and the seriousness of the government to swiftly resolve the case.
“We see the current pace of the massacre trial as a mockery that insults the memory of our slain colleagues and questions the determination of concerned agencies to make sure that justice will be served,” Rupert Mangilit, secretary general of NUJP, said in a statement sent to The Times.
Despite the massacre, media practitioners continued to be threatened, harassed and killed. Since Pres. Benigno Aquino 3rd assumed office in 2010, 18 media workers had been slain in work-related cases.
Belmonte urged the DOJ and the Department of Interior and Local Government to execute a “definitive investigation into the direct relation between corrupt governance and media killings, and design a plan of action to prevent future occurrences.”