We mark today the 13th year since the Ampatuan Massacre — the deadliest attack on journalists in the world.
We note as well that it is also almost three years since the families of the victims received partial justice through the conviction of 28 people, including masterminds Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan, for 57 counts of murder. Fifteen other people were convicted as accessories to the murders.
According to an update from the Office of the Press Secretary last week, an appeal by prosecutors has led to the conviction of another accessory, bringing the number of convicted to 44. Meanwhile, 83 accused in the murder cases are still at large.
Since the decision in 2019, Andal Jr. and Zaldy have brought the conviction to the Court of Appeals. While this is within their right and is part of court processes, this also means the families face a longer wait for full justice as well as for compensation for the loved ones they lost on November 23, 2009.
At a short commemoration program on November 20, families with Justice Now — the organization of victims’ families — reaffirmed their commitment to continue calling for justice in the Ampatuan Massacre case.
Part of that call for justice is the recognition that there were 58 victims of the massacre and that the trial should include the murder of Reynaldo Momay, whose dentures were found at the massacre site and who was confirmed to have joined the coverage on November 23, 2009.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines joins them and the journalism community in this call. We offer them our solidarity and support and the commitment to continue following up and reporting on the case until the families get the full justice that they deserve.
We take note of the administration’s commitment, communicated through the OPS, that the government will not forget this heinous crime and hope, along with the families, that full justice will not take another 13 years. As the Justice Now families have stressed, forgetting is not an option for us.
While we are saddened and enraged that the culture of impunity on attacks against journalists continues to reign, we take solace in the solidarity among our ranks and with other press freedom advocates.