TEN years after the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao, the case has been submitted for decision, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said on Friday.
Presidential Communications Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the PTFoMs, said the Department of Justice (DoJ) informed his office in a letter on Sept. 3, 2019 about the development on the case against the Ampatuan family, the alleged perpetrators of the attack on Nov. 23, 2009.
“In an Order dated August 22, 2019, the court has already declared the Ampatuan Maguindanao massacre case as deemed submitted for decision,” Egco said in a statement, quoting Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.
“After almost a decade of investigations, cancellation and resetting of court hearings, and presentation of voluminous documents and countless testimonies of witnesses, the trial of the Ampatuan Massacre case comes to a grinding halt,” he added.
Sy Egco, a former media practitioner, assured the public that the entire PTFoMS would remain vigilant to ensure that there would be no further delays in the case.
“We will exhaust all means to help guard the sanctity of the judicial process in these crucial times, so that justice may finally be served in these cases,” he said.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, for his part, has expressed hope that a decision would be out before the 10th anniversary of the massacre.
“The court has already deemed the case as submitted for decision, and barring unforeseen circumstances, we are hoping for a decision by the 3rd week of November,” Andanar said in a statement.
Andanar, co-chairman of PTFoMs, said, “This is another addition to President Duterte’s legacy, that one of the most despicable acts against journalists in the history of the world will finally come to a close during his term.”
“We expect that justice will ultimately prevail for the victims and their families,” the Palace official said.
“Again, we cannot help but be amazed at the dedication of the men and women of the law enforcement units, prosecutors, and most especially, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, whose passion for their work is exceeded only by their desire to see this case through its conclusion,” he added.
The Maguindanao massacre claimed the lives of 58 individuals including 32 media workers. Also killed were the wife of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, lawyers and supporters. They were in a convoy to Shariff Aguak town to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for the May 2010 elections.
Members of the Ampatuan clan are facing criminal charges for allegedly being the masterminds behind the cold-blooded killing.
A group of armed men stopped the convoy, shot them dead and used a backhoe to bury them while they were still onboard the vehicles.
The incident prompted then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to place Maguindanao under martial law.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo, who served as a former lawyer of the Ampatuans, on Thursday revealed that a member of the clan had also sought his assistance in recent months.
Datu Saudi Ampatuan Jr.’s mother Bai Soraida Biruar-Ampatuan and his wife Jehan-Jehan Ampatuan-Lepail initially sought an audience with Duterte but failed to do so, a copy of an email from the Office of the President showed.
“They’re asking the intercession of the President,” said Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, in press briefing.
“They’re claiming that inosente sila (they are innocent). Sabi ko, bakit di sumuko (I asked, why not just surrender)?” he added. CATHERINE S. VALENTE