‘Press freedom is dead if Ampatuans not convicted’ – lawyer

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Lawyer of the families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre Nena Santos said she is confident that a conviction is in the offing.

In a press conference, Nov. 5, Santos said the Quezon City court is expected to issue a promulgation before the tenth year of the gruesome incident that killed 58 individuals, of whom 32 were journalists.

“We are not sure of the 100% (all 197 accused), but we are sure that the principal accused will be convicted,” Santos said. Principal suspects include brothers Andal Jr., Zaldy and Sajid Ampatuan, sons of the alleged mastermind Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Santos underscored the significance of the Ampatuan massacre case to the state of press freedom in the country.

“If there would be no conviction, I’m sorry to say press freedom is dead,” Santos said. “(Because it means) impunity, because if nobody gets to jail for killing media people, where is democracy, where is press freedom?”

Asked about the highs and lows of the ten-year trial, Santos said her low points included the deaths of witnesses and some witnesses taking offers of money. She said, however, that all 30 major witnesses did not recant their testimonies despite threats. “Their lives are no longer normal. Their lives are in danger,” Santos said.

Santos revealed she herself received many death threats. “I just have one focus: just handle the case to the best of my ability without any favor or without… falling into any offers of money, influence, position until this case is finally resolved,” Santos said.

Asked why the case has dragged on for ten years, Santos said the defense “mainly caused the delays.”

The Ampatuan massacre, which took place on Nov. 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao is considered as the single biggest attack on journalists worldwide. ()

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