The Trial of the Decade

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On this day (December 19, 2019). As the whole nation tunes in after 11 years of trial that spanned over 3 presidents and 8 justice secretaries. The primary suspects? the Ampatuan Clan and their collaborators. The victims? Members of the press, families, relatives, and supporters of Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu who were supposed to file Toto's candidacy which their lives ended brutally by the ruling clan of Maguindanao, and their conspirators.

In case you missed my article about this, click/tap here to read more. The Maguindanao Massacre is considered to be the most gruesome act of violence against innocent lives. The country is now part of the dangerous places to practice journalism, against press freedom, impunity, and the worst-election related violence in Filipino history. To look back on what happened in this incident, here are the following events after 11 years of the Maguindanao Massacre.

Members of the Philippine National Police's Scene Of the Crime Ops. gather on the mass grave to recover the dead bodies at Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao (Click/tap this for the image source)

November 23, 2009 - The convoy consisting of women (families, relatives, and supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu) and members of the press were invited by Esmael to cover his candidacy, and en route to the COMELEC's (Commission on Elections) provincial office at Sharif Aguak was cut short since they were blocked by armed men, killed, and buried on a mass grave using a backhoe including their vehicles written in property of the ruling clan.

November 24, 2009 - A State of Emergency was declared after the massacre on Maguindanao, and neighboring provinces of Sultan Kudarat & Cotabato.

November 25, 2009 - The Ampatuan clan was expelled with their membership of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD since they were connected with the current president at that time, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

November 26, 2009 - The government issues the arrest of Andal Ampatuan Jr., Andal Ampatuan Sr., Zaldy Ampatuan, Sajid Ampatuan, and other relatives of the political clan of Maguindanao.

December 4, 2009 - Martial law was declared in the province of Maguindanao to pave way for the arrest of all involved in the massacre. Raids were organized by the Philippine National Police and breached several of the properties owned by the ruling clan, only to find out that the weapons stored on these houses are fit enough to supply a whole army.

The trial began on December 15, 2009. Throughout 2010, the primary suspects: Andal Ampatuan Sr. & Jr, Zaldy, and Sajid Ampatuan issues a not guilty plea claiming they're not behind the massacre. Mass arrests were issued by the court, most of them turned state witnesses but took down by unknown assailants.

In 2015, Sajid Ampatuan granted his petition in bail leaving his brothers and father to rot in jail since there's sufficient evidence that he didn't participate in the massacre but present and didn't speak within the scheduled meetings on their plot to take down Esmael Mangudadatu. Zaldy & Ampatuan Sr.'s request for bail was denied since there is strong evidence that he monitored the execution with his conversation with his son Andal Jr. On July 17, 2015, Andal Ampatuan Sr. died due to liver cancer.

In 2016, the trial has been ongoing for 7 years and justice hasn't been served to the conspirators. The participants of the massacre were members of the Philippine National Police under the control of the Ampatuans, most of them were dismissed that is found guilty of grave misconduct, others were suspended.

December 19, 2019. At a secured court session and televised on air for the whole nation to watch at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Branch 221 Jocelyn Solis Reyes makes her final verdict. Andal Jr. & Zaldy were convicted of 57 counts of murder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua without the chance of getting parole. 28 police officers were also given the same counts and sentenced to 40 years. 15 were sentenced from 6 to 10 years. 55 others were acquitted. Justice was served to the victims, against the Ampatuan Clan, their collaborators, while others remain at large.

As I mentioned previously, these people want to maintain their position and influence across their territory. Instead of bloodshed, why don't we give way to the new generation of leaders to change and onward with progress to the future. Another thing I would add here is, the judicial system of my country needs to be changed. Why did it take a decade to resolve this case? It is given there are a lot of witnesses but they have their point of view on what happened on November 23, 2009. If this could happen again, then there would be no press freedom, no journalists to enter and cover other events in the Philippines, the fear of the people because it is ruled by a powerful clan and a slow process of deliberation for the accused.

For the victims of the massacre, especially Esmael's Wife & Aunt including the members of the press, may their souls live peacefully in paradise. For the accused and their collaborators, may it serve as a big lesson for what they have done, and may haunt their conscience. While the others remain at large, instead of hiding they need to surrender themselves and face the consequences. For Esmael, and the families' victims they will not stop until justice will prevail.

Sources:

Lead Image/Screengrab from https://youtu.be/r8J-rZKqh5E (uploaded by Manila Bulletin & originally from PTV)

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/19/timeline-the-maguindanao-killings-and-the-struggle-for-justice

https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2019/12/18/maguindanao-massacre-what-you-need-to-know.html

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