MANILA, Philippines –- Will the wheels of justice finally turn in favor of the 58 victims of the Ampatuan massacre eight years after the gruesome incident?
Nena Santos, one of the lawyers of the victims’ families, believes that by 2018, a partial conviction of the accused will finally be issued by the court.
“We’re looking at 2018 for a partial conviction,” she said in a news conference, adding this was the hope of the families of the victims and private and government prosecutors.
Santos said they were expecting the conviction of all 112 accused, saying “they were charged in conspiracy with each other, be it a principal by inducement, principal by direct participation, accessory, or accomplice.”
Of those charged, she said only seven had yet to present their formal offers of evidence, including former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the principal suspects in the case, the head of the Ampatuan political clan, who died of heart attack in July 2015.
His son, Datu Sajid, another principal suspect, was released on bail in 2015.
The Ampatuan clan was accused of masterminding the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre to block the candidacy of its then political rival Esmael Mangudadatu, the incumbent governor of Maguindanao.
The case is undergoing trial before Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Regional Trial Court-Branch 22 of Quezon City.
Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, brother of Gov. Mangudadatu, said, “I just want to remind everybody that we are still here waiting for justice to be served.”
“We are fervently asking for help because the case is still pending and progressing very slow,” he said.
Emily Lopez, a relative of one of the victims, said they would continue to keep a tight watch on the progress of the case.
Karen Araneta, wife of one of the slain journalists, Henry Araneta, sought the intervention of President Rodrigo Duterte in fast-tracking the resolution of the case and making the accused accountable.