Ampatuan massacre suspect’s furlough angers journalists, rights advocates

“…we stress that the crime of which Mr. Ampatuan is accused of is of such a heinous nature that the shock and outrage it stirred around the world forced then President Gloria Arroyo to move against the powerful clan that was among her staunchest allies.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) demands an explanation from state prosecutors for the furlough granted to Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the principal suspects in the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Zaldy, former governor of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), was allowed to attend the wedding of his daughter at Sofitel in Manila, Aug. 21.

The NUJP could not believe that such a privilege would be granted to Zaldy. “Where were the state prosecutors in all this? Did they contest the petition? Perhaps, more importantly, did they even inform the families of the victims and other parties to the case?” the group asked.

“While we may understand a parent’s desire to be present at such an important milestone in the life of a child, we stress that the crime of which Mr. Ampatuan is accused of is of such a heinous nature that the shock and outrage it stirred around the world forced then President Gloria Arroyo to move against the powerful clan that was among her staunchest allies,” NUJP said.

Moreover, the group lamented at how the case is going. No one has yet been convicted for a massacre that claimed the lives of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists. Another principal accused, Sajid Ampatuan, was granted bail in 2015.

“That and now this, we feel, gives us and the victims’ families more than enough cause to worry about whether we can truly expect justice for this most grievous of crimes,” the NUJP further said.

Meanwhile, human rights alliance Karapatan condemned the double standard.

In a Facebook post, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that political prisoners “were heartlessly denied of their appeals to properly grieve and pay their respects to their loved ones.”

Palabay recalled that Andrea Rosal was disallowed to go to the cemetery where her child was buried/ while Joseph Cuevas and Eddie Cruz were not allowed to go to the wake of their fathers.

Rosal, who lost her child while in detention, was eventually cleared of all the charges against her. Cuevas, meanwhile, endured more than three years in jail before the court ruled in his favor and Cruz endured seven years in prison before all the charges against him were dismissed for lack of merit.

“Of course, they were not in government and they are poor, so they don’t have the perks of hoodlums and killers such as the Ampatuans, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada,” Palabay said.

Arroyo, Enrile and Estrada were previously detained for plunder and corruption charges. All of them were granted temporary freedom. ()

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