By Ali Macabalang
AMPATUAN, Maguindanao – Optimism ran high that justice would finally be rendered in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre at the 10th year of commemoration of the blood carnage that had some officials joining Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu that they, too, would resign if the main suspects would not be convicted in the case.
“If no accused, especially the principal ones, are not convicted, I will resign my post,” said Communications Undersecretary Joel Egco, head of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS).
All camps are awaiting the result of a 30-day extension sought by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes to make a full review of the case and be able to render a decision.
“Let us continue to pray and keep a vigilant watch on the trial process… Our dream for justice is nearing fulfillment,” Egco said in Pilipino in the presence of hundreds of kin and supporters of carnage victims gathered at the infamous massacre site at Sitio Masalay, Marangay Salman here on Saturday.
Egco said local and foreign media entities monitoring the trial proceedings expect Solis-Reyes to promulgate a “guilty verdict” on or before December 20.
Lawyer Nena Santos, a private prosecutor for the families of the victims, said she was “100 percent confident” that a guilty verdict will be rendered by Solis-Reyes on the principal suspects former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his fellow accused siblings.
Santos said she may as well opt for retirement from the legal profession if the court promulgates an unfavorable ruling since such a decision would be tantamount to the “death of press freedom and a mockery of the justice system.”
Other police and military officials present at Saturday’s event aired similar options to “revert to ordinary civilian life” if the court clears the prime suspects in the carnage.
Mangudadatu was the first to announce at a press conference last week in Manila his intention to resign his congressional post should the charges against the suspects in the massacre, which claimed the lives of his wife, two sisters and some supporters, be dismissed.
Thirty two (32) of the 58 victims were journalists, and their death was deemed the world’s deadliest single attack on the media. They joined the convoy of vehicles led by slain Genalyn Mangudadatu to cover her filing of gubernatorial candidacy of her husband, then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael.
The convoy was waylaid along the national highway here on November 23, 2009 by more than 100 armed men allegedly led by Andal Jr. who herded all 58 passengers to the secluded hilly Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman here, executed them and buried them later in two pre-dug huge pits.
At Saturday’s event here, Mangudadatu disclosed that all female victims in the massacre were allegedly “raped” before execution as indicated in the absence of their underwear when their remains were plucked out from the two pits earlier dug by a government-owned backhoe.
“Let us not stop fighting for relief in the name of justice and for the dignity of our lost loved ones,” Mangudadatu told fellow relatives of massacre victims here in Pilipino.