PHILIPPINES: Justice for Journalists in Maguindanao Massacre

The Supreme Court stood by its June 2012 ruling that affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision to include former Governor Zaldy Ampatuan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the list of those accused in the Maguindanao massacre. He is charged with plotting what would turn out to be the worst election-related violence in Philippine history.

“No further pleadings will be entertained in this case. Let entry of judgment be made in due course,” the high court said as it denied Ampatuan’s second motion for reconsideration.

The Maguindanao massacre occurred on the morning of November 23, 2009, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. While the victims were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town, they were kidnapped and brutally killed. Mangudadatu was challenging Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of the incumbent Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr., in the election for governor.

Mangudadatu thought that the presence of journalists would deter an attack from his rivals who had threatened to “chop him into pieces” if he filed a certificate of candidacy. Sadly, he was mistaken. Of the 58 people killed, including Mangudadatu’s pregnant wife and two sisters, at least 34 were journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called the Maguindanao massacre the single deadliest event for journalists in history.

Private prosecutor Nena Santos, counsel for Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, said she was “happy” that Zaldy was finally arraigned.

“It took three long years for this to happen,” Santos told GMA News Online.

In the case of some form of justice for the victims, better late than never.

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