De Lima assures of conviction of massacre suspects before 2016 PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 17:44

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Sunday promised to regularly update the relatives of the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre victims on the ongoing hearings by regularly providing updates to members of the media based in Central Mindanao.

De Lima said she would personally oversee the prompt dispatch of official communiqués on the case to reporters based in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and in Administrative Region 12, where most families of the massacre victims reside.

“We just have to do a proper format and design a template for that information relay process,” De Lima said.

De Lima and the region’s two largest and most active press clubs, the 6th Infantry Division “Kampilan” Press Corps and the ARMM Regional Police Press Corps, agreed to cooperate in disseminating updates on the massacre case, to keep families of the victims abreast on all developments in the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of the atrocity.

Most members of the two press groups are “peace journalists” who underwent extensive trainings on humanitarian and peace and conflict reporting sponsored by foreign organizations and international donor outfits involved in the on-going peace overture between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

De Lima had told the families of the massacre victims, in a meeting in Tacurong City after Sunday’s commemoration in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao of the 5th anniversary of the gruesome incident, that she is optimistic that the people behind the carnage will be convicted before President Benigno Aquino III’s term ends in 2016.

De Lima’s dialogue in Tacurong City with the group was organized by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who lost a wife, Genalyn, and several relatives in the massacre.

“Sometimes you don’t get the most precise information from news reports. Some reports have different slant and angles. We at the DOJ will try our best to keep you posted through official briefings from the department,” De Lima said.

De Lima, Mangudadatu, Army Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and his subordinate-brigade commanders, representatives from the ARMM police and Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado, who is director of the foreign-assisted Institute for Autonomy and Governance, led the on-site ecumenical prayer service for the victims of the massacre.

The prayer rite, officiated by Mercado, who belong to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, involved Muslim clerics and representatives from Christian sects.

Some 70 children lost either a father or a mother in the carnage, the country’s worst election-related violence ever.

De Lima was accompanied to the site of the massacre by private prosecutor Nena Santos, who helped brief relatives of the victims on recent developments on the prosecution of Andal Ampatuan Sr., his son, Andal Ampatuan Jr., and their relatives detained in connection with the mass murders.

“We can’t deny there is delay in this case for so many reasons. There are dilatory maneuvers being done by people that want to have it delayed for a reason. On our part, we have been very cautious in processing testimonies of witnesses against the suspects and that process also requires time,” De Lima said.

De Lima was applauded by Mangudadatu and other relatives of the massacre victims after assuring of a possible conviction of the suspects before the Aquino presidency expires on June 30, 2016.

“My being justice secretary is co-terminus with the term of President Aquino. I will do my best to secure conviction before I step down from DOJ too,” she said.

De Lima urged relatives of the massacre victims to be patient and to remain zealous in their struggle to achieve justice for the 58 people that perished in the incident.

Mangudadatu said his clan has “solid” trust on the sincerity of the DOJ and the judge handling the massacre case, Jocelyn Santos-Reyes, of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221.

De Lima allayed fears that Judge Reyes could possibly be influenced by the Ampatuans, apprehensions fanned by their lack of information on the prosecution proceedings.

“We know Judge Reyes as a judge with very good reputation. We, too, have trust in her. We just have to be patient. Justice will be served,” De Lima said.

Sunday’s commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the massacre in Salman District was preceded by a musical “concert for peace and justice” on Saturday night by journalists and folk singer Freddie Aguilar at the municipal gymnasium in Buluan town in Maguindanao.

Mangudadatu’s children and reporters covering Central Mindanao also sang folk songs and ballads during the three-hour concert, witnessed by some 10,000 people from across Maguindanao.