Maguindanao 2nd district Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu recalled on Monday the crucial favor that then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte did for him in the hours after the “Maguindanao Massacre.”‘
“From day one, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has been there for us,” Mangudadatu said in a speech at Barangay Masalan, Ampatuan town, on the occasion of the massacre’s 11th anniversary.
“Kung hindi nagpahiram si Mayor Duterte noon ng helicopter, napakalaki ng posibilidad na hindi na natin nakita kung saan sila dinala at tinangkang ibaon ng mga salarin (Had Mayor Duterte decided not to loan his helicopter, there was a big possibility that we would have never found when the suspects brought and buried the victims),” he said.
“Kaya sa aming mahal na Pangulong Duterte, maraming, maraming, Maraming salamat po, Mr. President! Tanggapin ninyo ang aming marubdob at walang humpay na pasasalamat sa iyong mga tulong at maging sa tulong ng iyong administrasyon (To our beloved President Duterte, thank you very much! Please accept our fierce and unending appreciation for your personal help, as well as the assistance of your administration),” added the Mindanaoan.
Systematically shot to death and then hastily buried in a hillside ditch on November 23, 2009 were 58 people, 32 of whom were media practitioners. Bai Genalyn, Mangundadatu’s wife, was among the victims of the carnage.
The convoy of victims was on its way to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy when members of the Ampatuan family and their private army intercepted them along the highway. The suspects went as far as burying the victims’ vehicles using a backhoe.
The doomed civilians were initially reported as missing until their impromptu burial site was found in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao. What followed was the arrest of dozens of perpetrators and a 10-year trial.
As fate would have it, the massacre victims’ kin would attain justice during the presidency of Duterte, who turned out to be the surprise landslide winner of the 2016 presidential race.
Several key members of the Ampatuan family–the political rivals of the Mangudadatus–were deemed guilty by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes on December 19, 2019.
“To Judge Reyes, thank you for your bravery for taking on this case. Thank you for standing up and for courageously seeing the end of this cause when your predecessors could not. I would also like to extend my thanks to the surviving victims and supporters – especially the members of the media who stood by us and are continuously standing up with us through all these years. Isa din po kayo na naging lakas ko para ituloy ang laban na ito (You were also a source of strength for me in continuing thus fight),” Mangudadatu said.