[From the web] Masterminds Guilty in Philippines Massacre -HRW

But Many Acquitted, Remain at Large in 2009 Maguindanao Killings
By Carlos H. Conde
Philippines Researcher
Human Rights Watch
@condeHRW

When I heard the verdict handed down in the Maguindanao Massacre case today, I was ecstatic. As a former journalist, I’ve waited 10 long years for a court to convict the perpetrators of the country’s worst case of political violence, in which 58 people, 32 of them journalists, were killed execution-style.

The masterminds of this horrific crime – Andal Ampatuan Jr. and his brother Zaldy Ampatuan Jr. – were sentenced to life in prison without parole. But out of more than 107 who stood trial, only 28 people were convicted for murder, receiving 40-year prison terms, minus 10 for time served. Another 15 people were found guilty as accessory to the murders. The court acquitted 55 defendants of all charges. Then there are the 80 suspects that police have failed to arrest.

So this was justice, if only partially, and may not fully comfort victims’ relatives. I’m especially reminded of Reynaldo Momay, the 58th victim, whose case the court did not include because his body was never found. I wrote about him and his family when I was still reporting for the New York Times, and the bitterness I felt then only worsened after the court shunted aside his fate.

But in today’s Philippines, this verdict is a victory nonetheless – a rare triumph of accountability in a country notorious for impunity and where politicians and warlords can get away with anything, including murder.

The challenge now is to finish this quest for justice, starting with the arrest of the 80 suspects who remain at large. Both victims’ families and witnesses remain in danger as long as these suspects are free.

Then there’s the question of whether another Maguindanao Massacre could happen again. I’m afraid that so long as the national government ignores or even coddles local ruling families with “private armies,” future Maguindanaos are inevitable. Until the military and police can be trusted to dismantle politicians’ illegal forces, instead of participating in them, those who try to exercise their basic rights, whether as opposition candidates, journalists or ordinary citizens, will be at risk.

So I fear these convictions will not upend my country’s dysfunctional political culture. But today, at least, was a day for justice.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos, etc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.