The Department of Justice has indicted only eight of 48 more suspects included in the second wave of complaints against those involved in the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao in 2009.
Victims’ lawyer Nena Santos on Monday revealed that two Ampatuans and six others were charged before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221, the same court that convicted last year some members of the influential Ampatuan clan and many police officers after finding them guilty of multiple murder for the massacre.
However, Santos expressed dismay over the DOJ’s dismissal of charges against the 40 others, saying only three paragraphs in the prosecutors' resolution explained the legal basis for the dismissal.
"The fight is not yet over," Santos said, adding she felt the DOJ was no longer on their side.
Insisting the witnesses’ testimonies were enough to prove the guilt of the respondents, Santos said the resolution dismissing charges against most of them was another manifestation of impunity.
Indicted for the murder charges include Datu Moning Ampatuan Asim, Datu Harris Ampatuan Macapendeng, Dali Kamendan a.k.a. Kumander Boy, Mautin Upam, Rene Upam, Datu Diego 'Digo' Mamalapat, Daud Kamendan a.k.a. Kumander Kuatro, and a certain "Biton" from the Philippine National Police.
Citing a 33-page resolution, Santos said the DOJ prosecutors found evidence indicating that seven of the eight, except "Biton," attended meetings where the Ampatuans planned the massacres and "participated in the shooting of the victims" themselves.
"Biton," on the other hand, was not in the meetings but led his officers to block the victims' convoy on November 23, 2009, prosecutors said.
The rest of the respondents "may have attended some of the supposed meetings, but did not take part in the actual killings," the resolution said.
Santos said the complainants had already filed a motion for reconsideration.
On November 23, 2009, more than hundred armed men abducted the wife, sisters, relatives, and supporters of Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu who were on their way to file his candidacy, forced them up a remote hill, and shot them using high-powered firearms.
Fifty-eight people died, 32 of them members of the media who had accompanied Mangudadatu's camp to cover the candidacy filing. Six of the victims were not part of the convoy at all.
Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes convicted dozens of people, including former Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor Zaldy Ampatuan, Anwar Ampatuan Sr., Anwar "Ipi" Ampatuan Jr., and Anwar Sajid "Ulo" Ampatuan, and several police officers, in December 2019.
The accused were found guilty of multiple murder for the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao in 2009 that is known as an unprecedented case of election-related violence and an exceptionally brutal attack on the press.
Along with Manny, Mohades, and Misuari Ampatuan, several police officers and other personalities, they were sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or up to 40 years of imprisonment, without parole.
Fourteen police officers and Bong Andal, who operated the backhoe in the infamous massacre, were sentenced to six to 10 years in prison after they were found to have acted as accessories to the crime.
Clan patriarch Andal Sr. was also among the accused but he died of liver cancer while in detention in 2015.
Four Ampatuans — Akmad alias "Tato," Sajid Islam, Jonathan, Jimmy— along with dozens of other individuals were, meanwhile, acquitted on the ground of reasonable doubt; three were acquitted for the prosecution's "absolute" failure to prove their guilt. They were ordered released from jail unless they are being detained for other lawful causes.
In her decision, the Judge Reyes also ordered the principal accused to pay hundreds of thousands to millions of pesos in damages and loss of earning capacity to the heirs of each of the victims — except that of photojournalist Reynaldo "Bebot" Momay, the 58th massacre victim whose body was never found.
The court acquitted all the accused over Momay's death due to reasonable doubt and dismissed his family's claim for damages.
The Maguindanao massacre case is now pending appeals before the Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, Malacañang vowed the government would continue hunting down suspects still at large and pursue charges against them.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque acknowledged that many suspects in the massacre remained at large.
“There are suspects who were able to escape but we will hunt them down and pursue charges against them. We will never forget,” he said.
The Maguindanao massacre has been dubbed as the world's deadliest single attack on journalists, and the worst case of election-related violence in the country.