Andal Ampatuan Jr. , Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Zaldy Ampatuan.
Fifteen months after a politically-motivated massacre on 23 November 2009 in the southern province of Maguindanao in which 32 journalists were killed, the case against the alleged killers has ground to a halt.
The accused masterminds – Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his two sons, Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan – and the members of the Ampatuan family private militia who allegedly carried out the gruesome massacre have still not been tried.
Some of them are waiting to be freed on bail and Zaldy Ampatuan, the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), has petitioned the Court of Appeals for a review of the Department of Justice finding of probable cause in his case. If the court rules in his favour, not only would he be released but all charges against him would be dropped.
Reporters Without Borders warns President Benigno Aquino III’s administration that it will break its promise to combat impunity if it yields to the pressure from the Ampatuan family. Everything possible must be done to hold the trial within a reasonable period and Zaldy Ampatuan must be shown no leniency. In view of the gravity of this mass murder, the credibility of the Philippine justice system is now at stake.
The press freedom organization voices its support for all the relatives of the massacre victims who demonstrated today in Manila in protest against Zaldy Ampatuan’s possible release.
More information about the massacre, the deadliest in the media’s history:
Damning testimony for Ampatuan clan
“That's easy, father. We kill all of them when they come here.” This is what Andal Ampatuan Jr allegedly told his father, the head of the Ampatuan clan, according to one of the first witnesses in the trial of the 196 clan members, mostly militiamen, who are charged with the November 2009 massacre of 57 civilians, including 32 journalists, in the southern province of Maguindanao.
The testimony, given by a former family employee who attended a meeting at the home of the leading defendant’s father, then provincial governor Andal Ampatuan Sr, six days before the massacre, clearly indicated that the massacre was premeditated.
The former employee, Lakmudin Saliao, quoted the father as replying: “Do not entrust the roadblock to others. You yourself should stop them at the highway, near the place where a backhoe is conducting some diggings.”
The subject of the alleged meeting was how the family should respond to a political rival’s plans for a motorcade through the province led by the rival’s wife, who was one of the victims. It was evident from Saliao’s testimony that Andal Ampatuan Jr made it clear to his father that he intended to kill all of the motorcade’s members.
Saliao gave his evidence when the trial resumed yesterday in Manila. Lawyers for the accused asked for a 10-day adjournment but Judge Jocelyn Reyer rejected the request.
More information about the trial: http://en.rsf.org/philippines-a-lawyer-and-a-journalist-31-08-2010,38244...