After 10 years, authors of Maguindanao massacre sentenced
It was the worst political massacre in the country's history. Andal Ampatuan Jr and four other members of a powerful political dynasty are guilty of killing 57 people to repel the electoral challenge of a rival clan. The case involved over 100 suspects arrested and another 81 are still at large. The verdict is the culmination of a long and slow trial, marked by allegations of corruption and murder of at least four witnesses.
Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Ten years after the tragedy, this morning the judicial authorities have sentenced to life imprisonment - or 40 years without parole - the masterminds of the worst political massacre in Philippine history. Occurred on November 23, 2009 on the island of Mindanao, the massacre of Maguindanao, (or Ampatuan massacre) shocked the world and highlighted the brutal culture of clan impunity in the country. Andal Ampatuan Jr (photo) and four other members of a powerful political dynasty in the southern province of Maguindanao were convicted of killing 57 people to repel the electoral challenge of a rival clan.
The victims included 32 journalists. The perpetrators of the carnage dumped the bodies in hollowed-out pits and the police never found the body of the 58th victim. The case involved over 100 suspects arrested and another 81 are still at large. The judges have sentenced 15 people, considered accomplices in the massacre to at least six years in prison. More than 50 other accused were acquitted for lack of evidence, including four members of the Ampatuan clan and dozens of police officers. The sentence, issued in the Bicutan maximum security prison (Metro Manila), was broadcast live on TV in all the Philippines. The verdict is the culmination of a long and slow process, marked by allegations of corruption and witness murder. According to media reports, at least four of these died before giving evidence. During the years of delay of the case, the patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr and seven other defendants died.
The Ampatuan ruled the province of Maguindanao, occupying almost all the political offices in the area. The then president Gloria Arroyo allowed the powerful family to build a heavily armed militia to use in the war against Muslim rebels in the region. On November 23, 10 years ago, Ampatuan Jr. led nearly 200 armed followers. The group blocked a convoy of seven vehicles carrying the wife, sisters, relatives and lawyers of Esmael Mangudadatu, a politician who had decided to run for the office of governor of the province. The squadron seized the convoy, including the passengers of two unsuspecting cars that had been stuck in traffic, and led them to a nearby hill. Here there machines were used to dig huge pits where to bury the victims and their vehicles. Ampatuan Jnr and his followers opened fire on the victims at close range and fled quickly after sensing that the army was approaching. The armed forces found bodies severely mutilated inside the vans, lying on the ground or buried in the wells with some of the vehicles.