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Kin of journalist victims in Maguindanao massacre pin hope on Pres. Duterte for long-sought justice

MANILA — As the country commemorated the 7th anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre on Wednesday, the relatives of several media personalities who died in the carnage expressed hope that President Rodrigo R. Duterte would deliver to them the justice that they have long sought for their loved ones even as they condemned the slow pace of the wheels of justice under the past administration.
In a press conference at the House of Representatives, the relatives of the victims expressed both bitterness and hope over the developments of the case filed against the perpetrators of the vicious crime that left 58 persons dead, 32 of them journalists based in Mindanao.
The event, also called the Ampatuan massacre after the town where the killings happened, was labeled as the deadliest event for journalists in the Philippines.
Incidentally, members of the powerful Amapatuan clan were the main suspects in the massacre.
Ma. Cipriana Gatchalian of Davao City, who lost her husband Santos Gatchalian Jr., reporter of Mindanao Daily Gazette, lamented the hardships she had to endure after the death of her spouse.
"As a wife who lost her husband, I am left alone to care and provide for the education of our children. It feels like a house just lost a pillar and nearing collapse. If a problem arose, I have no husband to share it with and no one to turn to," she said.
That is why, she said, they are pinning their hopes on President Duterte, a fellow Mindanaoan, for the justice they seek if only to assuage the loss of their loved ones.
"To President Duterte, as a fellow Davaoña, please help us with our case that has been proceeding at a snail's pace. It's there, but it is sleeping. It needs to be nudged in order to move. We want justice for our loved ones who were murdered," Gatchalian said.
Likewise, Alejandro Reblando Jr., son of Manila Bulletin and Reuters correspondent Alejandro Reblando, said his family is pinning their hopes for justice on President Duterte.
"How many more administrations would come and go before justice is served? We are already losing hope because we don't even know if justice would still be attained," he said.
"But I hope that our loved ones would be given justice by President Duterte. To the Duterte administration, please give us the justice we seek," the younger Reblando said.
Meanwhile, Ramonita Salaysay, wife of Napoleon Salaysay, editor-publisher of Clearview Gazette, said that seven years had already passed, yet the justice they seek still remains elusive and blamed the past administration for it.
"I feel bitter with (former) President Noynoy Aquino because he promised he would help the victims attain the justice we seek. But his term expired without the justice he promised," the Cotabato City resident said.
"We are anxious until now on when the case would really end, when the perpetrators who killed defenseless people would be convicted," Salaysay said.
Catherine Nuñez, the mother of UNTV anchor Victor Nuñez, also lambasted the past administration for the slow grind of the wheels of justice.
"This Leila de Lima, she promised us that we would attain justice under her term. Where is the justice that she promised us?" she said.
Senator De Lima was the Justice secretary during the Aquino administration and her office oversaw much of the proceedings against the Ampatuan clan and their cohorts.
She said that it hurts for a mother to learn that her child was killed in a brutal manner.
"When they are still young, we don't even want a single mosquito to bite them. But what did these evil persons did? They killed him just like that," the still-grieving mother said.
"We hope that we can attain justice before the end of the term of the new DOJ secretary," Nuñez said.
In the meantime, Noemi Parcon, wife of Prontiera News correspondent Noel Parcon, said the denial of justice to the slain journalists would have an adverse effect to press freedom in the country.
"All our loved ones wanted was to report to the people the truth. I hope the case would be decided soon so that journalists would be assured that justice would be truly served to those who would like to curtail the freedom of the press," she said.
Juliet Evardo, mother of UNTV cameraman Jolito Evardo, wished that the government would give compensation to the victims' families since the alleged perpetrators were high local government officials during the time of the massacre.
"As parents, we wish that our children would be provided their right to education, their right to live. We hope that the government could provide compensation for the welfare of our children," she said.
On the other hand, Zenaida Duhay, wife of Gold Star Daily correspondent Jose Duhay, also hit the snail-pace dispensation of justice and how the presiding judge is treating it.
The case is being heard by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 221 Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes.
"Seven years and yet justice is not yet in sight. Judge Solis, how many more witnesses do you need to decide on this case?" Duhay lamented.
She also expressed alarm and frustration over the possibility that the case would be further delayed due to Solis' prospect of being promoted to a higher court.
Solis-Reyes is vying for a seat at either the Sandiganbayan or the Court of Appeals.
"We strongly oppose her appointment to the CA. She (Solis) does not deserve the seat until she gives justice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre," the widow said.
"If she could not give justice to this particular case, what right does she have to sit as associate justice of the CA? Unless she renders a decision in this case; only then could we say that she deserved to be promoted to the CA," Duhay said.
Her sentiments over the possible delay in the case was echoed by Kabayan Partylist Rep. Harry Roque who said that the prosecution has already rested its case against 106 of the accused and are just waiting for Solis to decide the next proceedings.
In the aftermath of the massacre, warrants were issued to 197 suspects.
Of the number, 114 were consequently arrested while 83 suspects remain at large.
Roque, who organized the press conference, said that all petitions for bail for the 106 have been heard and decided on which means that "all evidence by the prosecution and the defense were already presented."
The lawmaker, who is party to the case as member of the prosecution, said that if additional evidence needs to be presented, then Solis should say so and conduct marathon hearings to hear the additional material.
"The court should also implement the first in-first out that we have suggested so that cases against some of the accused would be decided immediately," he said.
"We are not saying how she would decide, but she should decide. There are 58 counts of murder. We only need one conviction to send everyone else to Muntinlupa," Roque said.
The Partylist solon likewise expressed his apprehension over Solis' possible promotion to the CA but said that he is not against it.
"We have already submitted a roomful of evidence and are just waiting for a decision. If another judge takes over the case, it would cause tremendous delay to the case," he said.
"However, Solis deserves to be promoted. But it would be considerate of her if she could bring closure to this case," Roque said. (PNA)

Last Modified: 2021-Jul-22 20.18.11 UTC+0800