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MANILA, Philippines -- Relatives of two journalists who died in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre shed tears in court Wednesday after the judge hearing the case deferred the scheduled arraignment Thursday of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines reported.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, who is trying the multiple murder charges against the close to 200 accused of the massacre, agreed to the deferment pending her resolution of a motion for reconsideration Ampatuan’s lawyers had filed to defer his arraignment over the objections of public prosecutors led by Olivia Torrevillas.
“Bakit hindi natuloy? Sobrang masakit, galing pa ako sa Cotabato City at umabsent sa trabaho. Inaasahan kong makita bukas ang arraignment ni Zaldy. Ano ba ang dahilan bakit hanggang ngayon hindi pa siya na-arraign (Why did it not push through? This is so painful, I came from Cotabato City and absented myself from work. What is the real reason why he has not been arraigned until now?” Ramonita “Monette” Salaysay said.
“Dalawang taon at limang buwan ko nang hinihintay na makitang ma-arraign si Zaldy. Wala na ba talaga kaming pag-asang mga biktima na makakuha ng hustisya ngayon (I waited two years and five months to see Zaldy arraigned. Is there no hope for us victims to gain justice)?” she added.
Salaysay is the widow of Mindanao Gazette publisher Napoleon.
Catherine Nunez, mother of UNTV reporter Victor, said: “Arraignment pa lamang ito, masyado na kaming nasasaktan (This is just the arraignment, we are really hurt).”
Napoleon and Victor were among the 32 media workers who died in the massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 persons.
The former ARMM governor is among a number of members of his clan, who once ruled Maguindanao province, accused of masterminding and carrying out the slaughter.
“Umaasa kaming dalawa ni Mrs. Nunez na sana ay mabilis na ma-dismiss ng korte ang delaying tactic na ito ni Zaldy dahil wala nang dahilan para hindi siya ma-arraign sa kanyang kasalana (I and Mrs. Nunez were both hoping that the court would swiftly dismiss this delaying tactic of Zaldy because there is no more reason why he should not be arraigned for his crime),” Salaysay said.
Private prosecutor Gilbert Andres said the arguments he heard from Ampatuan’s lawyers were basically the same arguments already raised before the Court of Appeals, which had junked the former ARMM governor’s bid to be dropped from the list of accused.
“I understand the frustration of our clients. I pray to God that Zaldy Ampatuan will be arraigned soon,” he said.