Public apology, higher compensation demanded by kin of Maguindanao massacre victims

Heirs of the Maguindanao massacre victims are calling for a public apology and additional compensation from those found guilty of murder in the December 2019 decision of a Quezon City regional trial court. At the same time, the Justice Now Movement stood firm that full justice will only be served with the inclusion of Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay as the 58th murder victim.

Sana naman magkaroon ng public apology ang mga akusado despite na binigyan sila ng gano’ng verdict at dapat may compensation sa mga ginawa nila, sa mga biktima nila,” Emily Lopez, president of the organization of families of the Ampatuan massacre victims, said on Nov. 19.

Speaking at the online forum “Walang Forgive and Forget: Ampatuan Massacre and the May 2022 Elections,” Lopez reiterated that only partial justice had been served with the conviction of Ampatuan siblings Datu Andal Jr. and Zaldy, and 28 others for the brutal killing of members of the Mangudadatu family as well as 32 mediamen in the worst election-related violence incident in the country.

“Sana binigyan din ng korte ng konsiderasyon na ipataw ‘yung karampatang punishment sa kanila. Sa criminal aspect na binigay … kasali roon na sana part of the justice is the compensation para sa nangyari sa pamilya,” she said, citing that some of the victims’ spouses have already died while their children are in need of assistance for medical and educational expenses.

The principal convicts were ordered to pay a total of P155.6 million in damages to families of the 57 victims, broken down into P100,000 each for moral damages, civil indemnity, and exemplary damages.

Lopez added the Fight for 58 will continue so that the last 10 years that the movement fought for justice would not be in vain.

“Fight for 58 … Hindi buo ang pakikibaka namin kasi 57 lang ang nakasama sa decision. Partial justice ang nangyari roon,” Lopez said.

The non-inclusion of Momay, whose body was never found, from the murder charges was further aggravated by the exoneration of several others accused.

The day na lumabas ang desisyon, ‘yung mga anak ng mga biktima, nagpalabas ng sentimento na talagang may mga pangamba at may mga takot na ang pamilya. Kasi kung mayroong pinalaya, may posibilidad na malalagay sa alanganin ‘yung security ng pamilya.”

(Read Justice is served in the decade-long Maguindanao massacre case, except for one)

Although there have been “positive developments” in the case, including the conviction of SPO2 Badawi Bakal—the cop who manned the checkpoint in Sitio Masilay in Maguindanao the day of the massacre, on Nov. 23, 2009, chair of National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Jonathan de Santos said they rejected the “notion that cases are already resolved.”

Lopez added that the regional trial court could have considered handing out sufficient verdicts to those who were involved in one of the single deadliest attacks against journalists in the world.

“Masakit para sa amin na may mga grupo o sangkot doon na akusado na naabswelto, may mga punishment na 10 years …Hindi po katanggap-tanggap ang desisyon ng korte,” Lopez said.

Of the 197 accused in the trial, only 117 individuals were covered in the charges. De Santos noted that cases of 74 people who are still at large have been “temporarily archived.”

According to lawyer Perry Solis, chief of staff of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, four individuals have been apprehended in 2020, while one has been arrested this year, in addition to the reversal of the decision by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 on Bakal’s case.

Lopez said that as long as there is violence against the media, there is still only “partial justice.”

Habang may pinapatay, habang may inaatake, masakit pa rin dahil masakit ang mga mahal sa buhay namin ay part ng media institution.”

Momay was a photojournalist of Midland Review based in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat. He joined the convoy of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu to cover the filing for the aspirant’s certificate of candidacy, when about 100 men stopped the convoy and executed Momay and 57 others.

Only Momay’s dentures were found in the mass grave site.