Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines — Families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre will press the government to allow them to conduct surprise visits on the detention facility of the members of the Ampatuan clan, principal suspects in the murder.
The families, who organized themselves into a group called Justice Now!, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they will submit their letter of request to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) for access to the Ampatuan jail amid reports that the powerful clan has been getting special treatment while in detention.
Rowena Paraan, NUJP secretary general, said Justice Now! and NUJP have received reports that the Ampatuans are getting special treatment and are enjoying perks while in detention such as having their own helpers, catered food, airconditioned room, and use of cellular phones.
Reports have also reached them that the Ampatuans were also able to leave the facility in the company of jail guards, according to Paraan.
“If somebody like (former Batangas governor Antonio) Leviste can get out of jail anytime he pleases, then it’s not far-fetched that it happens also to somebody like the Ampatuans, who are more powerful and wealthy than Leviste,” Paraan said.
Alwyn Alburo, NUJP vice president, said families of the victims want transparency from the government to see how it is treating the suspects in the gruesome murder.
Six members of the Ampatuan clan are currently in jail, namely, former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., his son former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Rizaldy Ampatuan, former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., former Shariff Aguak mayor Datu Anwar Ampatuan, former vice governor Datu Sajid Ampatuan, and former Mamasapano mayor Akmad Ampatuan.
The six are sharing a cell in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan. The rest of the 90 suspects who have been arrested are also in the police camp.
There are at least 196 suspects believed involved in the murder of 57 people, including 32 media workers, on November 23, 2009 in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town.
At the 18th month commemoration of the massacre held in the House of Representatives Monday, Edith Tiamzon, widow of one of the journalists killed, said they want to see the condition of the Ampatuans in jail to ensure they are not getting VIP treatment.
Tiamzon lamented that the case has dragged for a year-and-a-half now and that justice is still nowhere in sight.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said lawmakers are wondering, too, about the progress of the case.
“After 18 months, the House is asking, too, what happened to the case? We are one with the families and supporters of the victims in seeking justice,” he said.
Belmonte said he hopes that justice would soon be served the families of the victims to ease their pain of losing their loved ones.
“I’m thinking what made people like Datu Unsay think they can do it. Let’s say the area there was dominated by warlords, but then we have innate humanity. What gave them the mindset that they can commit such murder?” he added.
Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III, the deputy speaker, appealed to the public not to forget about the massacre.
“As long as we never forget, we keep justice within reach…Our homage to the victims is our mark of vigilance,” he said.
- [In the news] Massacre victims’ kin amend plunder raps vs Ampatuans – Nation – GMA News Online – Latest Philippine News (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [In the news] Ampatuan to be charged with plunder | The Philippine Star News Headlines (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [In the news] Army major assaults Bicol journalist – NUJP – Interaksyon.com (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- Injustice (Maguindanao Massacre) (constanttalker.wordpress.com)
- QC court clears cop in Maguindanao massacre (newsinfo.inquirer.net)