Lawmakers laud Ampatuan conviction: Long time coming

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers on Thursday, December 19, welcomed the guilty verdict on the Ampatuan brothers over the 2009 massacre that saw 58 dead, including 32 journalists. 

Ampatuan brothers Datu Andal Jr and Zaldy were declared guilty beyond reasonable doubt of 57 counts of murder.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 under Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes sentenced them and others to reclusion perpetua without parole. (READ: 55 acquitted, 28 convicted in Ampatuan massacre)

The massacre on November 23, 2009, is regarded as the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines and the single deadliest attack on journalists in the world. (READ: TIMELINE: The long road to justice for Ampatuan massacre victims)

Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives noted that the conviction was a long time coming, but nonetheless hailed it as a welcome development.

SENATE

Senator Risa Hontiveros

This has been a day too long in coming, but it is a step towards the full measure of justice. On November 23, 2009, 58 people were murdered, 32 of them members of the press, in what has been widely acknowledged as the single most violent crime against journalists in living memory.

Now we must ensure the success of the BARMM and that the Philippines stops becoming a dangerous place for members of the press, or for anyone exercising their democratic rights.

Now we must work toward the greater goal of ending lawless violence perpetrated by political dynasties who only want to cling to power and look after their own self-interest. ‪The road to justice ends when we ensure that any similar attack on the free press and our democratic rights never happens again.  ‬

Senator Francis Pangilinan

Those behind the daily killings in the brutal drug war launched by this administration should take today's Ampatuan massacre guilty verdict to heart.

The killing of the innocent, the slaughter of the hapless, mass murder, must be, will be punished. 

Senator Leila de Lima 

This day will forever be etched in history as the day justice did not tolerate homicidal and monstrous abuse of power. By means of this guilty verdict, we are reminded that warlords have no place in a democracy, but are its very antithesis.

I also commend Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes, who tediously heard the case and had deferred career advancement, in the name of delivering complete justice to the victims of this gruesome crime. Judge Reyes will be remembered for how she tirelessly weighed and appreciated the facts, which led to the conviction of the Maguindanao mass murderers.

But, in spite of this victory, there is still injustice out there. This is why justice needs to be a continuing cycle wherein accountability continues to be exacted from those who abuse their power to maintain a stranglehold on their position. 

Senator Francis Tolentino

While it took several years to arrive at a verdict, the attainment of justice shows that faith and vigilance in the  judicial system is a primordial norm of a civilized society. While the penalty may be wanting for some, let us hope that this will never happen again.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto

Justice won today.

Senator Joel Villanueva

This decision restores faith in the justice system. I salute Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes for her dedication and her courage to stand for what is right and just. We hope that our authorities continue to account for the other accused who have yet to be arrested and tried.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

Justice has been served today. I applaud the  court and Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes for handling down the verdict in one of the deadliest instances of political violence in Philippine history.

Hindi na natin hahayaan pang maulit na mangyari ang ganitong trahedya. Patuloy tayong magbabantay laban sa anumang uri at mukha ng kriminalidad. Makakaasa ang taong bayan na kami sa lehislatura ay nakahandang magbalangkas ng batas para sa proteksiyon ng buhay ng bawat Filipino. (We will not let another tragedy like this happen again. We will continue to be vigilant against any form of crime or violence. Rest assured that the legislative is ready to propose bills to protect each Filipino.)

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ACT-CIS Representative Niña Taduran

Today, impunity has ended. The victims' cry for justice has been answered. As we celebrate the bravery and wisdom of Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes, we must also continue to pray for her safety and the witnesses' and families of the victims' well-being. 

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate

At long last, after 10 years, justice is finally catching up with the culprits behind the most barbaric attack against journalists in world history. These convicts must immediately be transferred and put behind bars in the national penitentiary without any conditions and reservations.

Those who are still at large must be hunted down, arrested, and suffer the consequences of their barbaric deeds. It is truly tragic but true that the Ampatuan massacre is emblematic of the dangers posed by private armies, militias, and paramilitaries and how it became one of the pillars of the reign of impunity in our country. Yet, the government, then and now, is not clearly serious in addressing it.

Cavite City 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr

Indeed, the fight of the victims' families is not over yet. Authorities should look further into the case of 80 accused individuals who remain at large. They too must be tried so corresponding penalties may be sentenced to them. Moreover, the judiciary [must] recalibrate its system and address VIP treatment among big-time inmates and ensure that hospital referral official pass is not abused by some who fake illnesses to be moved into medical facilities.

Ako Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr

The guilty verdict today is a challenge to Congress and all institutions and sectors in our democratic society to protect all our freedoms with utmost strength, the full force of our laws, and the clear certainty of enforcement. 

We must find ways to bar criminal warlords from running for all public positions, whether appointive or elective. We must weed out all corrupt and criminal elements from the ranks of the police, the military, and civilian officials. The country needs super strong protections for citizens and the news media covering conflict situations and election hotspots. 

Agusan del Norte 1st District Representative Lawrence Fortun

The guilty verdict is proof that no matter how slow the wheels of justice turn in our country's imperfect legal system, justice can be meted. This is a clear message to all voters to never again elect warlords to powerful positions in government from the barangay level up to all national posts.

This case should serve as a challenge to all branches of government to wipe out all private armies, seize and destroy all illegal firearms, and prosecute all lawless elements wherever they may be. 

– Rappler.com