Roque: Partial conviction on 2009 Maguindanao massacre eyed in 2018

COTABATO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed government prosecutors to do their best to obtain partial judgment against some of the accused in the infamous 2009 Maguindanao Massacre within the year.

This was disclosed by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a press conference here Tuesday, following the graduation rites of some 2,000 students of the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College where he was guest speaker.

“That is the marching order of the President when he conferred with the prosecution panel and we hope to do that,” he said.

For the past eight years, no conviction has been issued yet in the Maguindanao Massacre cases in which 58 people, 32 of whom were journalists and media workes, were killed in the interiors of Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

The Maguindanao massacre incident is described as the worst violent election-related case in the country. The incident stemmed from the filing of certificate of candidacy (CoC) of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu against Datu Unsay Mayor Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., a member of the powerful Ampatuan clan in the province, for the position of governor during the 2010 national and local polls.

On November 23, 2009, seven Mangudadatu family members, including the vice-mayor’s wife, Bai Genalyn, and his sister, were on a vehicle convoy together with the newsmen going towards Shariff Aguak, then the province’s capital town, to file Mangudadatu’s CoC when flagged down by some 100 armed men identified with Ampatuan Jr. along the section of the highway in Salman village.

The victims were then brought to the interiors of the village were they were gruesomely executed, some of whom were hastily buried by a backhoe, before authorities got information on the incident. Subsequent arrests and manhunt operations netted 197 suspects, including a dozen members of the Ampatuan clan.

Still in detention are Ampatuan Jr., the principal massacre suspect, his brother former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Datu Anwar Ampatuan Sr., Datu Anwar Ampatuan Jr., and Datu Akmad Ampatuan, among others. In July 2015, detained patriarch former Maguindanao Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. died at a hospital in Manila due to liver cancer.

Out on a PHP11.6-million bail since March 2015 is co-accused Sajid Ampatuan, another son of Ampatuan Sr. Sajid’s bail petition was granted by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) and was subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeals (CA) – in connection with the 56 counts of murder filed against him.

Some 16 policemen of the 1508th Provincial Mobile Group, who were implicated to the case, were also granted bail by the RTC and affirmed by the CA in the same year. Noel Punzalan/