SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: As families of victims of the infamous Maguindanao massacre commemorate on November 23 the gruesome murder of 57 civilians, including 38 journalists, eight years ago, their quest for justice is yet to be fulfilled.
Even if the wheels of justice seem too slow for them, they still are optimistic that justice will be served under the Duterte administration.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose wife Genalyn and her two sisters were among the victims, told
The Manila Times that there will be a program to commemorate the 8th year of the Maguindanao massacre right at the massacre site where stands a memorial he ordered constructed to remind people of the memories of the lives and times of the fallen victims.
“The [anniversary of the massacre]has almost become a tradition not only to remember the gruesome incident but more important to remind the world that the victims’ families’ quest for justice is still unfulfilled,” Mangudadatu said.
“Through this activity, we pray to rekindle the hope in the hearts not just of the bereaved families but of all victims of injustice in general,” he added.
Two Saturdays ago, Mangudadatu also commemorated the 26th anniversary of his wedding to Genalyn, wishing justice for her and the 57 other victims of the Maguindanao massacre.
Genalyn is survived by the governor and their eight children, the eldest of whom, Jhazzer, is member of the Maguindanao provincial board.
“I wish our children and all the relatives of other victims would see the wheels of justice roll over the culprits during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte. I’m hoping that would happen before I bow out of public service when my third and last term ends in 2019,” Mangudadatu said.
The massacre victims were among those who covered the entourage that were to deliver Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor to the provincial election supervisor in Shariff Aguak in May 2010 when members of the Ampatuan clan flagged down their convoy.
The suspects, backed by their private army, herded the victims to a hilly area at Sitio Salman in Barangay Masalay of Ampatuan municipality where they were massacred using assault rifles.
The Ampatuan patriarch, former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., did not want the candidacy for the same post of his son, Andal Jr., known as “Datu Unsay,” challenged by any candidate.
The older Ampatuan, tagged as key plotter of the carnage, the country’s worst election-related violence ever, died of liver cancer while in detention at Camp Bagong Diwa jail facility in Taguig City.
The Ampatuans then were feared for their absolute non-tolerance of anyone who challenges them in their bailiwick.
Mangudadatu, then vice mayor of Buluan town, his siblings and other relatives, all scions of Maguindanao’s Rajah Buayan nobility, did not resort to “rido” or retaliation even if the incident has transgressed so much on their “maratabat,” or clan pride and honor.
“We are fighting the legal way, through the courts, in seeking justice. As up to when we have wait, we don’t know. We are knocking on the heart of President Duterte,” he said.
Senior Ampatuan clan members, among them Datu Zaldy, former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, are being prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the carnage.
Hope Teodoro, a son of journalist victim Andy Teodoro of Tacurong in Sultan Kudarat, said it is very painful on the part of the victims’ families that until now the case is far from being resolved.
Hope said he was in Buluan where the Maguindanao governor gathered the victims’ surviving families for the advance commemoration of the infamous Maguindanao massacre.
He added that the victims’ families are hopeful that with President Duterte’s help, the cases of multiple murder against the suspects will be resolved.
“We are indeed happy that [lawyer]Harry Roque, a known human rights lawyer and among those helping the families of the Maguindanao massacre victims, will now have more access to President Duterte, being his spokesman, for the speedy dispensation of justice,” Hope said.