Kin of victims demand conviction of Ampatuans

Relatives of the Ampatuan massacre victims, journalists and advocates demand the conviction of the Ampatuans. (Photo by John Aaron Mark Macaraeg / Bulatlat)

“Our primary demand is the conviction of the Ampatuans. We hope all those involved in the killing of our loved ones would be declared guilty.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — In the early morning of Nov. 23, 2009, Rossel Morales kissed his eight-year-old daughter Ruschiel Faye Marie on the forehead and asked her what she wanted for pasalubong.

“He said he would give me anything I would ask for, I just had to wait for him.” Ruschiel told Bulatlat. “I waited for him but he did not come back.”

Her father was one of the 32 journalists who went with the convoy which would supposedly file the certificate of candidacy for Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu. The convoy was flagged down in a checkpoint. Fifty-eight were kidnapped and eventually killed by over a hundred armed men.

“Now I’m only waiting for justice,” Ruschiel, now 18 years old, said as she joined other families and journalists in a gathering a day before the court issues its promulgation on the case.

Ruschiel recounted that for the first four months since her father’s death, she could hardly sleep. “I was hallucinating, hearing footsteps. It was so traumatic that I would cover my ears whenever the massacre was mentioned.”

Psychosocial sessions helped her recover. Her love for music, which she got from her father, also eased her pain. She said her father played the guitar well and they would sing together. ‘Heart of Mine’ by Bobby Caldwell was the last song they recorded together.

Ten years after the tragedy, Ruschiel performed a song she wrote about their search for justice. “Kay tagal nang naghihintay pero di kailanman sumuko / Ilang beses mang nadapa / Ilang luha man tumulo,” she sang while playing the guitar.

Like Ruschiel, Emily Lopez, whose brother Arturo Betia was killed, also called for justice.

“Our primary demand is the conviction of the Ampatuans. We hope all those involved in the killing of our loved ones would be declared guilty,” Lopez said.

Witnesses, including the backhoe operator that buried the bodies, testified in court that members of the powerful Ampatuan clan ordered the carnage.

“The past ten years have been difficult for us,” Lopez said. She said that if justice would be served tomorow, this Christmas would be their happiest.

Lopez said that the world awaits the decision on the single deadliest attack on journalists ever recorded in history. “We would witness how the wheels of justice grind in our country,” she said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it is expecting a just verdict. 

NUJP Chairperson Nonoy Espina said the fight for justice does not end with the promulgation. He said there are 79 other suspects still at large and justice remains elusive for more than a hundred slain journalists.

“This is not just about press freedom but about the wanton violation of human rights,” Espina said. ()

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