By Hannah L. Torregoza
Senators hailed on Thursday the guilty verdict rendered by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court against the members of the influential Ampatuan clan in connection with the gruesome Maguindanao massacre in 2009.
“This decision restores faith in the justice system,” Senator Joel Villanueva said in a statement.
“I salute Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes for her dedication and her courage to stand for what is right and just,” Villanueva further said.
“We hope that our authorities continue to account for the other accused who have yet to be arrested and tried,” he added.
Senator Richard J, Gordon, for his part, expressed elation over the court decision in the Ampatuan massacre case.
“Now at least, after a decade, there is closure not only for the families of the 58 victims but also to the Filipino people who waited long for this decision,’’ he said.
Reyes found guilty former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Datu Zaldy “Puti” Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan, Dato Ulo Ampatuan, Datu Ipi Ampatuan and then police major Sukarno Dicay.
The Ampatuans were the prime suspects in the killing of 57 people in the infamous Nov. 23, 2009 massacre case, where 32 of them were members of the press.
The case was widely acknowledged as the single most violent crime against journalists in the history of the Philippines.
“This has been a day too long in coming, but it is a step towards the full measure of justice,” Hontiveros said.
“My heart goes out to the families of all the victims who have suffered for far too long. I am glad that this decision finally saw the light of day, and the truth is this decision should have come sooner,” she further said.
With the verdict, Hontiveros said she hopes that the government can now take steps to ensure that no similar attack against democratic rights, especially against the free press, would ever happen again.
“The world has waited 10 long years, and finally, we have taken the first step towards healing, accountability and justice. But this is not where the road to justice ends,” she said.
“Now we must ensure the success of the BARMM and that the Philippines stops becoming a dangerous place for members of the press, or for anyone exercising their democratic rights,” she said.
Hontiveros is referring to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM, which was a culmination of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 40-year struggle for autonomy and long–lasting peace in Mindanao. (With a report from Mario Casayuran)