Black coffins a grim reminder of Maguindanao massacre

Posted at 11/24/2012 2:53 AM | Updated as of 11/24/2012 3:17 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Black coffins were paraded in General Santos City on Friday afternoon to mark the third anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao.

This to remind President Benigno Aquino of his promise to go after the suspects behind the gruesome killings.

Police said they are continuing to go after the perpetrators.

"Tuloy-tuloy ang paghahabol sa lahat ng mga Maguindanao massacre suspects," said Chief Superintendent Alex Paul Monteagudo, police director in Region 12.

The backhoe that has come to symbolize that tragic day sits a vacant lot at the police regional headquarters.

Police vehicles and even the van that the perpetrators tried to bury are also found in the vacant lot

The vital pieces of evidence in the crime are now slowly decaying.

Search for justice
   
But families of the victims continue to hope that their quest for justice will not meet the same fate.

James Reblando, a son of Manila Bulletin reporter Bong Reblando, said their family has been forced to live apart from each other  because of threats to their lives.

"Habang tumatagal, lalong sumasakit ang aming dibdib na parang hindi umuusad ang kaso," he said.

Pacita Dalmacio, mother of slain journalist Leah Dalmacio, is hesitant to join commemorations of the event that took her daughter's life.

"Mabagal man ang hustisya," she said.

Focus on Ampatuans
   
The victims' families now call on public prosecutors to focus their efforts in pinning down members of the Ampatuan clan who are primary suspects in the killings.

 "We should focus in on the Ampatuan family, those that we have evidence, who really took part in the shooting and who really took part in the planning," said Atty. Harry Roque, one of the lawyers of the lawyer victims' families.
 
"I am saying that the police should be allowed to go scot-free because they did hear the shots but didn't do anything. (Interior Secretary) Mar (Roxas) should fire the policemen, that should be justice enough. Tet's get on with the process," he told ANC.

"Sa amin, kahit yung major participants lang sa kaso. Makukuntento na kami kung sila mako-convict sa kaso," said Noemi Parcon, a relative of one of the victims.

Slow pace of trial

Roque also lamented the slow pace of the massacre trial.

"What is happening is a systemic breakdown, it proves that the pillars of criminal justice system are not working," he said.

"Why the delays? Because the police have not done their job, they have not arrested everyone. When they arrest someone else, the witness has to come back to identify the new suspects. The same witnesses have been taking the stand over and over again and the trend will continue," he added.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility    (CMFR) is also dismayed over what it calls as Malacañang's seeming lack of interest in the case.

"I don't see enough outrage from Malacañang," said CMFR trustee and veteran journalist Vergel Santos. "Such shortage of outrage reflects the level of interest. They have priorities and preoccupation."

"It has to do with priorities of people. You have 58 dead people... dead in the most scandalous way. Why nothing to say?" he asked.

Santos also said the court should already resolve the cases filed against the Ampatuans unstead of waiting for the arrest of the other suspects.

If the 196 accused, 98 have been arrested so far.

Only 81 of the suspects -- including Ampatuan patriarch Andal, Sr., and his sons Andal, Jr., and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan -- have been arraigned. - ANC