Case vs. Maguindanao massacre prime suspect remains strong

MANILA The panel of prosecutors tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to expedite the trial of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre assured that the case against suspect, former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., remains strong.

The assurance, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, was made amid media reports saying that some witnesses have recanted their testimonies against Ampatuan Jr., one of the main suspects in the gruesome massacre.

I have noted that apparently there are some witnesses against Ampatuan, Jr. who have retracted their testimonies. But I have been assured by the panel of prosecutors that so far despite the retraction, the case against Unsay remains strong, Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

Roque said he is again arranging a meeting with the panel of prosecutors in the Palace.

And again, I would like to invite the President to join us in our meeting so that the President can be appraised by the prosecution team, Roque said.

He said the panel of prosecutors had been called pursuant to the marching order of Duterte to hasten the prosecution of the suspects and to have conviction possibly within this year.

That's the marching order of the President to the prosecution panel, Roque, former lawyer of some of the victims, said.

A total of 58 people were kidnapped and massacred while on their way to accompany Esmael Mangudadatu file his certificate of candidacy in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23, 2009. Mangudadatu is a political rival of the Ampatuan family.

Mangudadatu's wife and two sisters were among those killed in the Maguindanao massacre, which is also considered as the single deadliest event for journalists in history since 34 media workers were among the victims.

Mangudadatu run against Andal Ampatuan Jr., for Maguindanao's gubernatorial post during the 2010 elections.

Aside from Ampatuan Jr., other main co-accused in the Maguidanao massacre include his father, the late Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and his brother, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

The senior Ampatuan died due to live cancer complications in 2015.

The Maguindanao massacre has at least 197 suspects but only 116 have been arrested for multiple murder charges while 107 remains on trial and five were reportedly dismissed. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency