The key suspect in the massacre of Maguindanao in 2009, the former governor Zaldy Ampatuan who is currently in prison, received permission to attend his daughter’s wedding on 21 August. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in expressing serious concerns over the decision to grant Ampatuan family leave whereas the families of the journalists killed in the attack are still waiting for justice.
Ampatuan is accused of being the mastermind of the massacre which left 58 people dead, most of whom were journalists. It still is the deadliest attack on journalists anywhere in the world with up to 32 media professionals killed.
Ampatuan secured a court order to allow him to attend his daughter’s wedding in Pasay City. The attendance was revealed by another person present at the celebration through a social media post and was later confirmed by the Bureau of Jail management and Penology (BJMP). Ampatuan was seen dancing with his daughter at her wedding reception in Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. Victims’ families have strongly claimed against this permission.
The NUJP said: “While we may understand a parent's desire to be present at such an important milestone in the life of a child, we stress that the crime of which Mr. Ampatuan is accused of is of such a heinous nature that the shock and outrage it stirred around the world forced then President Gloria Arroyo to move against the powerful clan that was among her staunchest allies.”
The NUJP added: “Almost nine years after the rampage that claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers, no one has yet been convicted. Yet a principal accused, Sajid Ampatuan, was granted bail. And now, another key suspect is allowed to attend a social event which, we feel, gives us and the victims' families more than enough cause to worry about whether we can truly expect justice for this most grievous of crimes.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ is seriously concerned by this measure in favour of one of the suspected masterminds of 2009 Maguindanao Massacre in the Philippines. It makes a mockery of the legal system that a key suspect was allowed to attend the family marriage when the families of the 58, including 32 journalists, are still waiting for justice as no one has been convicted nine years later of this heinous crime. The IFJ believes that the Philippines must expedite the prosecution to convict murderers to ensure faith on its judicial system.”