By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Speaking on behalf of the families of the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre, Mary Grace Morales is disappointed that Salvador Panelo, a lawyer of the Ampatuan clan, will serve as the spokesperson of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte. “I am not comfortable. This is not right,” said Morales, who lost her husband Rosell and her sister, Marites Cablitas, in the 2009 massacre of 58 individuals in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.
“If he is really appointed, I will no longer hope for progress in this case,” Morales added. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) shared the sentiments of the relatives of the Ampatuan massacre victims.
Panelo withdrew as counsel for Andal Ampatuan Jr. in early December last year. But the NUJP expressed misgivings that his potential appointment as presidential spokesman will have implications on the trial of those accused in the massacre – acknowledged as the single deadliest attack on the press in history, and one of the worst incidents of electoral violence in the country.
“We urge the incoming government not to let political considerations get in the way of ensuring justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre,” NUJP chairperson Ryan Rosauro said.
“We assure everyone that the NUJP will remain committed to defending freedom of the press and of expression and will closely monitor the incoming administration’s adherence to these rights. This includes remaining vigilant about the progress of the trial of those accused of the single deadliest assault on media in history,” Rosauro added.