Court finds Andal Ampatuan, 24 others guilty

by Ronalyn V. Olea

MANILA — The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 found three of the primary suspects — members of the powerful Ampatuan clan — guilty of 57 counts of murder.

In a historic verdict, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes declared Andal Unsay Jr., Zaldy, Datu Anwar Sajid, Datu Anwar Sr. and Datu Anwar Jr. and 24 others guilty beyond reasonable doubt and sentenced to reclusion perpetua, which ranges from 20 years and one day to 40 years imprisonment, without parole.

Over 50 other suspects, including four Datu Sajid Ampatuan, Datu Akmad Ampatuan, were acquitted.

The court also ordered those convicted to pay damages to the heirs of the victims of the massacre which took place on Nov. 23, 2009, in barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) welcomed the decision as a partial victory in the long quest for justice. The group expects the Ampatuans to appeal the decision.

In a separate statement, Altermidya, the national network of alternative media groups, hailed the courage and determination of families, witnesses and lawyers “who stood up against the powerful clan.”

“The decision today is a small step toward ending impunity. It sends the message that the powers-that-be can still be held accountable, albeit belatedly,” Altermidya said.

The Ampatuan massacre is considered as the single deadliest attack on journalists. Of the 58 victims, 32 were members of the media. (Bulatlat)

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