11/23/2010, 00.00
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Maguindanao: no conviction a year after the massacre

Through prayers, messages and candles, some 3,000 people commemorate the 57 victims, killed on 23 November last year. Critics complain about the slow pace of the trial against the Ampatuan clan, which carried out the carnage.

Manila (AsiaNews) – More than 3,000 people gathered this morning in Maguindanao (Mindanao) to commemorate the attack that left 57 people dead a year ago, on 23 November 2009. Relatives of the dead, journalists and human rights activists offered prayers, read messages and lighted candles to remember the victims and issued a call for justice.

The massacre was not only an attack on journalists or political leaders, said Paul Randy Gumanao, vice president for Mindanao of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, but was affront to the Filipino people.

“The impotent action of our government is a form of betrayal of our democracy,” he added. “It is not enough that we just remember the most gruesome attack in media history. We need to act and rage because there is a continued culture of impunity in our country.”

On 23 November 2009, a commando of about 100 armed men attacked a convoy carrying 57 people. The latter included people affiliated with the clan of Ishmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, deputy mayor of Buluan, and main challenger to Andal Ampatuan Sr, outgoing governor of Maguindanao province. Everyone in the convoy was killed, including Mangudadatu’s wife.

The attack was so gruesome that it caused widespread fear and stunned the Philippines and the rest of the world.  

A year later, no conviction has been pronounced, and this despite President Aquino’s efforts to bring the culprits to justice.

So far, only Andal Ampatuan jr., son of Maguindanao’s former governor, is actually on trial. He is one of 196 people currently detained, including his father Andal Ampatuan Sr, charged by authorities for the gruesome murders. Nevertheless, the Ampatuan clan is still involved in drug trafficking and gunrunning.

In the prevailing climate of impunity, about one hundred witnesses have been killed, including former clan members turned government evidence.

A source told AsiaNews that tensions are still running high in the area. They also note that certain members of the Supreme Court are tied to former President Arroyo, and are blocking current President Aquino who wants a free and fair trial before TV cameras.

As the trial drags on, Arroyo, who was recently accused in connection with the massacre, is able to continue her work at discrediting her successor.

Mr Aquino based his presidential campaign on the topics of fighting corruption, ensuring justice and security, and bringing the trail to a quick resolution.

Mgr Bernardino C. Cortez, chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media, said that the trial must move at a faster pace. Otherwise, “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

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See also
Maguindanao massacre: main defendant proclaims his innocence
Massacre in Maguindanao: Andale Ampatuan Jr. accused of multiple homicide
Maguindanao: Former governor - believed to be responsible for the 2009 massacre – says he is "not
Maguindanao massacre trial begins
Maguindanao massacre trial postponed, victims’ relatives protest


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