On the 70th Month of the Ampatuan Massacre

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On the 70th Month of the Ampatuan Massacre

What transpired during the commemoration of the Maguindanao massacre in Kidapawan City?

JOURNALISTS from North Cotabato commemorated on Wednesday the 70th month of the Maguindanao massacre with a candle lighting ceremony and offering of prayers for the repose of the souls of the victims of the most gruesome crime in the Philippines’ history. The journalists, all members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Kidapawan City chapter, lighted 58 candles as symbols of the lives lost during the massacre.

They vowed ‘never to forget’ the crime and would continue to seek justice for the victims, 32 of them journalists. The brutal massacre is one of the world’s deadliest attacks against media workers. The NUJP Cotabato members expressed relief when they were told that the petition for bail filed by former ARMM Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan was denied by the court.

NUJP Cotabato chapter president Malu Cadelina Manar, citing reports, said the petition was denied because of the strength of the evidence against him. The order, penned by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the QC RTC Branch 221, was issued on September 15. The prosecution’s evidence admitted by the court includes some 300 pieces of exhibits and testimonies, including witness statements, medico-legal reports, autopsy pictures, records from telecommunication companies, and sketches of cadavers. Also included were the testimonies of Maguindanao Governor Esmael Toto Mangudadatu, former Ampatuan vice-mayor Rasul Sangki, accused-turned-state witnesses Sukano Badal and Esmael Canapia, and eyewitnesses Noh Akil, Lakmodin Saliao, and Esmael Amil Enog.

Aside from the former ARMM governor, two other Ampatuans face murder charges over the massacre – his father, the late Andal Ampatuan, Sr., who died last July 17, and brother Andal Ampatuan, Jr.

The NUJP Cotabato was also hopeful that the massacre trial hearings would be finished — as promised by Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, before the year ends.

They were told the prosecution and defense lawyers will finish presenting evidence by the end of 2015. After which, Judge Reyes will have 90 days to issue a verdict.