November 24, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – Human rights group Amnesty International (AI) Philippines yesterday appealed to the Duterte administration to help ensure the speedy resolution of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case.
In a statement commemorating the massacre, the group said the failure of two consecutive administrations to provide swift justice for the families of massacre victims “serves as a reminder that obtaining justice in the Philippines will always be an uphill battle unless the current leadership takes action towards sufficient judicial reforms in country.”
It noted that the Philippine government had obligations under international human rights laws in ensuring effective remedy for victims of human rights abuses and their families and working towards ending impunity.
AI Philippines urged President Duterte to prioritize the freedom of information legislation.
The group said had the bill been signed into a law in 2009, fact-finding missions could have scrutinized the methods used by the government earlier in the investigation of the massacre.
“This could have relatively cut the trials shorter, delivered justice to the victims, saved the lives of many witnesses and cleared the government of impunity,” it noted.
AI Philippines also asked the current administration to repeal Executive Order 546, an order effectively authorizing the Philippine National Police (PNP) to deputize militias and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) as “force multipliers.”
“The fact that private armies continue to operate in the Philippines and are employed by the same families in Maguindanao (province) is an affront to the victims and their families,” the group said.
“President Duterte’s commitment in challenging impunity that leads to narcopolitics and corruption should also manifest in all his work towards eradicating it across all branches of government,” it added.
The Maguindanao massacre happened seven years ago, but victims and their families have yet to attain justice.
No one has been convicted for the gruesome killing of 58 people, including 32 media practitioners, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, on November 23, 2009.
The victims were part of an electoral convoy that was supposed to file Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for the 2010 elections when he first ran as governor of Maguindanao.
The wife of Mangudadatu led the convoy that was stopped and brutally murdered by more than 100 men.
Mangudadatu was challenging primary suspect Andal Ampatuan Jr. that time.
Delays and judicial wrangling have marked the Maguindanao massacre trials before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 due to the large number of suspects.
Based on court records as of yesterday, 114 of the original 197 accused have been arrested.
Of the cases filed against the arrested suspects, one was already dismissed and one was dropped for lack of probable cause.
Two suspects were already discharged as state witnesses and one was granted with temporary freedom through bail.
Meanwhile, four suspects had already died, while the cases are being heard.
The first accused who died was PO2 Hernani Decipulo, Jr. that allegedly committed suicide by jumping from the rooftop of his detention cell in Camp Bagong Diwa on February 6, 2012.
Other accused who died during the pendency of the case were former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and Maot Dumla, alias Nhot Abdul.
Ampatuan Sr. died on July 17, 2015 at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City due to liver cancer.
Dumla died at the Taguig-Pateros Hospital on April 11, 2015 due to congestive heart failure.
Accused Moktar Daud, on the other hand, died last September 8, while confined at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City due to tuberculosis. – EAN