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International human rights group laud conviction of Ampatuans

Acquittal of accused cops raises concern

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines welcomes the recent verdict to convict 28 persons including three Ampatuan siblings principally charged for the death of 57 individuals, 32 of whom were journalists. The 28 will be facing 40 years of imprisonment while fifteen others were convicted with lesser jail time.

The decision was served on December 19, 2019 by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court, in the country’s capital, more than 10 years after the worst media killing and worst election-related killing in Philippine history.

However, current local Mayor Sajid Ampatuan, one of the members of the notorious clan, and 52 other accused, 30 of whom are cops, were acquitted. ICHRP is worried at the message this sends out at time of continuing culture of impunity. “By acquitting all the policemen involved in the killings, it has held the government unaccountable for the massacre,” says ICHRP.

Nevertheless, we welcome this long overdue verdict and bittersweet victory for the families and the Filipino people. If not for the vigilance of journalists, surviving families, and human rights advocates, justice would still be elusive.

Peter Murphy, Chairperson ICHRP

It is well known that the Ampatuans are political allies with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was Philippine president when the mass killing happened. Arroyo was not legally held accountable as commander-in-chief at that time and she is now restored into power through the high position of House Speaker in the Congress. She also enjoys being part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s close allies.

ICHRP also stressed their concern with how the Ampatuans are able to stall the case for 10 years and were even granted privileges in jail — “This only proves that human rights violators and murderers in the Philippines will do everything in their power to bend the law in their favor. Therefore, we are one with the call of human rights organizations and individuals to be vigilant and to guard this historic victory from being overturned.”

“The battle for justice may be long but Filipinos have proven, time and again, their unwavering dedication to carrying on the fight. Again, we salute the families, the journalists, human rights workers, lawyers and supporters who, for 10 years, never gave up. We will continue to support the search for justice for all victims of human rights violations in previous regimes and exacting accountability for the crimes of the fascist Duterte government,” Murphy concludes. #

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