Mangundadatu hopes for justice as Maguindanao massacre nears 10th anniversary

Published August 16, 2019, 1:20 PM

by Dr. Eduardo Gonzales

By Ellson Quismorio 

The bloody Maguindanao massacre is nearing its 10th anniversary, and Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu expressed optimism that justice will finally be achieved for the victims.

Outgoing Maguindanao Governor and now elected Representative Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu (photo courtesy of Maranao scribe Moh Saaduddin / MANILA BULLETIN)
Maguindanao  2nd district Representative Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu (photo courtesy of Maranao scribe Moh Saaduddin / MANILA BULLETIN)

Mangundadatu, who lost his wife and two sisters in the killings, is hoping for the conviction of all 197 accused in the case, despite 80 of the respondents still remaining at large to this date.

“I pray that justice be rightfully served so that complete healing and forgiveness can finally set in. My heart and prayers also goes to the families who lost their love ones in the tragedy. Like them, there was never a day that goes by that I don’t think about those who perished. I share their grief,” Mangudadatu said.

Systematically executed by members of a private armed group on November 23, 2009 in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao were 58 people, 32 of whom were media practitioners. It has since been dubbed as the world’s deadliest attack on journalists.

Manila Bulletin correspondent Alejandro “Bong” Reblando was among the victims.

But the real target of the atrocity must have been Mangudadatu, himself, who was then the Buluan town vice mayor preparing to challenge Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of then-incumbent Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., in the 2010 gubernatorial race. Ampatuan Jr. and a handful of close relatives are the principal suspects in the crime.

The Mangudadatus and Ampatuans are longtime political rivals in the province.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he was expecting judgment to be rendered before the 10th anniversary of the infamous massacre. Moreover, he said the prosecution panel has presented more than sufficient evidence to warrant a conviction, at least against the principal accused in the case.

All parties involved in the case were given until August 15 to submit their respective memoranda or final position paper before the verdict can be issued. Coincidentally, Mangudadatu celebrated his birthday that same day.

“While many of the families have gone weary and disenchanted that they will ever see justice, I, for one, believe that deliverance is in the offing. I have faith that God will hear our pleas and that we will receive the justice we have been searching for all these years. This has been my birthday wish,” Mangudadatu said.

Perhaps the most shocking part about the massacre aside from the huge death toll was the perpetrators’ belief that they could cover up the physical evidence and get away with it.

The massacre victims were hurriedly buried in a ditch–along with some of their vehicles–using the provincial government’s backhoe.

The involved journalists were covering the filing of Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy, which was carried out by his wife, Bai Genalyn.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes has been hearing the case at a makeshift court at the National Capital Region Police Office in Camp Bagong Diwa, where some of the respondents are held.