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article imageAfter five years no one convicted for Philippine massacre

By Ken Hanly     Nov 28, 2014 in World
Manila - November 23 was the fifth anniversary of a slaughter allegedly committed by members of the Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao province in the large southern island of the Philippines Mindanao.
The Maguindanao massacre killed 58 people including 32 journalists and other media workers.
The slaughter was allegedly the result of Andal Sr. and his sons plotting to prevent political rival Esmael Mangudadatu from running for governor of the province. A convoy led by Mangudadatu's wife, friends, and lawyers was en route to file papers for Mangudadatu's candidacy at the provincial capital along with 32 local media representatives.
The patriarch's son Andal Ampatuan Jr. along with almost 200 militia and police officers stopped the convoy at gunpoint. The group then were marched to a grassy knoll where witnesses said that they were methodically gunned down. Another version of events is given in the appended video. Some of the women's bodies were mutilated. A backhoe was brought in to dig shallow graves into which they dumped the bodies and vehicles.The clan were supporters of former President Arroyo. The new president Aquino vowed when he came to power that those responsible for the horrible massacre would be brought to justice. He has yet to deliver and his six year term ends in 2016.
Only 110 of 194 people charged have been arrested, with the rest at large. At least four potential witnesses have been killed and others have been threatened. A defence attorney for the Ampatuan clan has entered not guilty pleas to all charges. Rights monitors claim that the Ampatuan clan is still quite influential in the local area. One lead prosecutor was taken off the case after being accused of taking bribes from the Ampatuan attorney. Relatives of the Ampatuans continue to be elected to local posts in Maguindinao province.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said: "I am not going to deny that impunity still exists now." Nevertheless de Lima insisted that Aquino will not tolerate the killings. De Lima noted how important the case was for international perception of the Philippine justice system: "It's not acceptable [to have no convictions yet because] it adds to the culture of impunity. That is why this is the ultimate test, this is the litmus test, because if we do not get the right verdict, God forbid, in this case then what kind of justice system do we have? What kind of an image would the Philippine justice system have vis-a-vis the global community?"
Harry Roque a prosecution lawyer, seen on the appended video, thinks that the odds are stacked against the prosecutors. He nevertheless was still hopeful that a verdict might be handed down on some of the key suspects. However, just days before the fifth anniversary of the massacre a former Ampatuan employee, about to turn state witness was gunned down and another potential witness wounded. Phelim Kine from Human Rights Watch claims that the killing shows that the Philippine government is either unable or unwilling to protect key witnesses. He claims also that the killing "is a reminder to activists, journalists, and politicians of the vicious status quo in the Philippines, in which gunmen with powerful backers routinely get away with murder". The appended video gives a detailed account of the background of the massacre and Wikipedia does so as well..
More about Ampatuan clan, Maguindanao massacre, President aquino
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