Massacre in the philippines: justice is not in sight

58 people were murdered in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao in 2009. Surviving relatives are threatened, and the trial is in danger of being dragged out.

Of a total of 200 accused, almost half are on the run. Picture: dapd

"We want those responsible to be held accountable," says Grace Morales. "But to date, the masterminds have not been convicted." Of eight detained members of the notorious Ampatuan clan, only two have been charged. "Although it seems like the government wants to help us, I am absolutely frustrated because of the slow process."

Exactly three years ago, Morales’ husband and sister – both journalists – were murdered in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao. 58 people were bestially killed at the time, including 32 members of the media. The other victims were relatives and supporters of Ismael Mangudadatu, deputy mayor of Buluan, who wanted to run for governor.

They were on their way to the provincial capital, where the family of Mangudadatu, who did not travel because of death threats, wanted to file papers for his candidacy. The incumbent governor was Andal Ampatuan Senior, head of the powerful Ampatuan clan. He is now in custody as one of the main masterminds of the massacre, as is his son. He is accused by the judiciary of having led 100 gunmen of the family militia and of having personally shot several victims. Of a total of 200 accused, almost half are on the run.

The Ampatuan clan, one of the most powerful in the Muslim south, has long been accused of atrocities. A massacre on the scale of the 23rd. Melinda Quintos de Jesus of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility criticizes that the November 2009 attack could only have been committed by someone who was absolutely convinced that he would go unpunished. She is alluding to the widespread impunity, according to which influential people are above the law and witnesses are not protected. Ampatuan, on the other hand, was allied with the president of the country at the time.

The case against him has dragged on, and witnesses have been murdered or intimidated. Attempts are also being made to bribe poor victim families. But they don’t want to hear about it: "Justice is more important to them than money," says Morales, whose victims’ group has filed a class action suit against the Ampatuans.

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