Verdict on Maguindanao massacre

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PTFoMs executive director Undersecretary Jose Joel Sy Egco  

MANILA— The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Thursday welcomed the conviction of the principal suspects in the Maguindanao massacre, dubbed as the world’s worst killings of journalists in history where at least 32 media workers were murdered.

Undersecretary Jose Joel Sy Egco, PTFoMs executive director, said the Quezon City court’s verdict is “a cause for celebration for those who value press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights.”

Egco called on Filipinos “to remember that of the 58 people who were killed, 32 were media workers” even as he noted that the case has come to be “widely regarded as the deadliest single-day attack on journalists in the world, as well as the worst election-related case of violence in recent Philippine history”.

He said: “there is no way in objective terms can anyone claim that there is a ’culture of impunity’ in this country.”

“Let me reiterate that the real heroes in this are the families of the 58 victims, the prosecution witnesses, the government and private prosecutors,” he added.

In a previous statement, Egco predicted that it will take “the political will of a Duterte Administration to finally see this through its logical conclusion” and it will be considered “a part of the Duterte Legacy”.

On Thursday, more than 10 years since the massacre, the principal suspects in the case, including Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. alias ‘Unsay’, were found guilty by Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said he initially “predicted that this is the only way the judgment should go”

“As I’ve said before, criminals who murder or in any way endanger journalists in this part of the world will not go unpunished. This is justice. It was admittedly a slow process but we have to go through it as warranted by our democratic system,” said Andanar, also PTFoMS co-chairperson.

On Nov. 23, 2009, at least 58 were killed in Maguindanao province while en route to Shariff Aguak to file the certificate of candidacy of then Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. The victims included 32 media workers, six passersby, two lawyers, and the wife and sisters of Mangudadatu.

The media workers murdered were the following:

1. Alejandro Reblando
2. Andres Teodoro
3. Arturo Betia
4. Benjie Adolfo
5. Bienvenido Legarte Jr.
6. Daniel Tiamson
7. Ernesto Maravilla
8. Fernando Razon
9. Francisco Subang
10. Gina dela Cruz
11. Hannibal Cachuela
12. Henry Araneta
13. Jepon Cadagdagon
14. Jhoy Duhay
15. Joel Parcon
16. John Caniban
17. Jolito Evardo
18. Lea Dalmacio
19. Lindo Lupogan
20. Marife Montaño
21. Marites Cablitas
22. Mark Gilbert Arriola
23. Napoleon Salaysay
24. Noel Decina
25. Rey Merisco
26. Reynaldo Momay
27. Romeo Jimmy Cabillo
28. Ronie Perante
29. Rosell Morales
30. Rubello Bataluna
31. Santos Gatchalian
32. Victor Nuñez

Meanwhile, the following were among those killed :

Mangudadatu clan

33. Genalin Tiamzon Mangudadatu
34. Eden Gaguil Mangudadatu
35. Farinah Mangudadatu Hassan
36. Rowena Ante Mangudadatu
37. Surayyda Gaguil Bernan
38. Wahida Ali Kalim
39. Mamotabai Mangudadatu
40. Raida Abdul Sapalon
41. Faridah Sabdullah Gaguil

Supporters

42. Pinky Balayman
43. Lailani Balayman
44. Eugene Demillo Pamansag
45. Abdillah Ayada
46. Rahima Palawan
47. Meriam Calimbol

Lawyers

48. Concepcion Jayme-Brizuela
49. Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon
50. Catalino Oquendo Jr.

Van Drivers

51. Norton Edza Ebus
52. Razul Daud Bulilo

Passersby

53. Eduardo Lechonsito
54. Cecille Lechonsito
55. Mercy Palabrica
56. Daryll delos Reyes
57. Wilhelm Palabrica
58. Anthony Ridao

(Source: Joyce Ann L. Rocamora and Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)

The Maguindanao massacre

On 23 November 2009, a convoy of politicians and media men and other civilians were ambushed, kidnapped and killed in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao—considered as the first blood drawn in connection to the 2010 elections.

The 58 victims were found dead a day after a group of armed men rained bullets on a convoy of media men and the family members and supporters of Buluan Vice-mayor Ismael Toto Mangudadatu on their way to file his certificate of candidacy with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Maguindanao police discovered the bullet-ridden bodies from shallow graves in a remote farming area in the Mindanao island—a result of what is considered the most savage political massacre since the lifting of martial law in 1986 and the worst violence against journalists in the history of the modern world.

Some of the bodies, according to Regional police commander Chief Superintendent Josefino Cataluna, said that some of the victims were beheaded while some were defaced. He also said that the bodies were described in shallow graves that looked like they had been hurriedly dug up. He also said that their search yielded 17 bodies in just one grave.

Among the casualties were Mangudadatu’s wife, two female lawyers, and a number of journalists.

The massacre in Ampatuan town was the result of a clan war between Mangudadatu and Maguindanao government Datu Andal Ampatuan.

Mangudadatu asked his wife, along with some of their supporters, to file his certificate of candidacy with the Comelec with the intention of following later. However, the party was not able to make it to their destination after they were ambushed by gunmen who shot them to at close-range.

Speculations that the massacre was politically-motivated floated because Mangudadatu was planning to challenge Ampatuan for the gubernatorial seat in the province.

Ampatuan was also linked to the massacre after a provincial backhoe was found in the site where the bodies were discovered.

The Philippine national government under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared the province a state of emergency and directed authorities to solve the pre-election violence.

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