Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Philippine Muslim rebels join calls for speedy massacre trial

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 24, 2010) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front has joined calls for a speedy trial of the country’s worst political killings allegedly perpetrated by a powerful clan in the troubled region of Mindanao.

At least 57 people had been killed last year and among them were 32 journalists and media workers, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

The Ampatuan clan, whose patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr, the governor of Maguindanao, and his sons Andal Ampatuan Jr, mayor of Ampatuan town; and Zaldy Ampatuan, governor of the autonomous region, and other relatives had been implicated in the brutal murders and are being tried for the crimes.

“We also feel the pain and sympathize with the families of all the victims in the massacre and we join the mounting calls for a speedy trial of the cases so justice could be served without delay,” Von Al-Haq, a spokesman for the MILF, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Families of those murdered and media groups have assailed the slow progress of the multiple murder charges filed against the influential and wealthy Ampatuan family, whose battery of lawyers have been accused of delaying the court trials.

“There must be an early resolution of these cases because money is a powerful tool and as the saying goes justice delayed in justice denied,” Al-Haq said.

On Wednesday, some 3,000 people led by families of those murdered, flocked to a remote village in Ampatuan town, site of the gruesome killings, and offered candles and prayers in commemoration of those who had perished in the attack. One journalist who was among the group is feared dead, but his body had not been found.

The victims were traveling in a political caravan when some 200 gunmen, mostly government militias allegedly led by Ampatuan Jr, intercepted convoy and herded them to a remote part of the town where they were shot and hacked to death in a futile attempt to stop the wife of Buluan town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu from filing his election nomination paper and run as governor of the province to which he eventually won.

While many attended the commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the massacre, Ampatuan’s political ally and now acting governor of the Muslim autonomous region, Ansaruddin Adiong, did not show up nor issue any statement.

Adiong was Ampatuan’s deputy regional governor who took over his rule after the clan members were arrested in Maguindanao last year in connection to the massacre. Adiong, who also belongs to an equally powerful political clan, has remained silent over the now infamous “Maguindanao massacre.” (Mindanao Examiner)

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