It happened 23 November. Today is the day of reckoning.
The incident claimed the lives of 58 people, 32 of which were journalists and media workers caught in a political war between two clans in an incident that we now know as the Ampatuan Massacre. Now, with the primary suspects Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr. and his brother Zaldy found guilty and sentenced to a maximum of 40 years in prison, the case is finally over.
DNX comes up with a timeline detailing the series of incidents that started in the hilly portion of Maguindanao, and the trial that went on too long.
23 November 2009. Genalin Mangudadatu, wife of then Buluan vice-mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, led a convoy of 58 people, 32 of which were journalists and media workers to file a certificate of candidacy for governor on behalf of her husband. They never returned home. Their bodies were later found buried in a hilly portion near Shariff Aguak.
Reports later said that while on their way to Shariff Aguak, the convoy was stopped by a police checkpoint in barangay Salman, and were then led to hilly part of the area, where they were systematically murdered. The incident was named by the Committee for the Protection Journalists as the “single deadliest event for the press since 1992”.
Ampatuan clan members led by then Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr., Andal Ampatuan, Jr., Zaldy Ampatuan were identified as masterminds, and were arrested days after the massacre. After heavy pressure, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an ally of the Ampatuans, ordered the filing of charges.
Others implicated were officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) including P/CInsp. Sukarno Dicay, at that time the chief of the 15th Regional Mobile Group, as well as at least 60 other policemen.
5 January 2010. The hearings finally started. Ninety-eight suspects were identified but only 81 were arraigned by the time 2013 rolls in. Some of the suspects had gone missing. All the accused were included in the same charge sheet, so a protracted trial was expected.
14 June 2010. Potential witness Suwahid Upham was killed. Upham was the one who identified Andal Jr. as the shooter of Genalyn.
March 2012. Witness Esmael Enog, who had gone missing, was found dead, his body heavily mutilated. He had testified in court that he was ordered by his boss, Alijol Ampatuan, to drive armed men to barangay Malating, the site of the massacre.
A protracted legal proceeding ensues, including petitions for bail, cross-examination of witnesses, and motions filed mostly by the defendants, delaying the process further.
Although only 31 accused were initially charged with the massacre, the number of the accused increased to 197 after the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) added more names to the list of suspects.
The prosecution theorizes that the plans to kill Toto Mangudadatu were hatched as early as July when he made it clear that he would be running for governor. On the other hand, the defense claims that there were not enough evidences to prove that Ampatuan, Jr. had ordered the killings.
Concerns for the delays prompted the Supreme Court to intervene by crafting new guidelines including naming an “Assisting Judge” to Branch 221 who could take over some of the work in the trial.
18 November 2014. Witness Dennix Sakal was killed by unidentified gunmen, while his companion was wounded. Sakal was in the employ of the Ampatuans and could potentially implicate his former employers in the massacre.
17 July 2015. Primary suspect Andal Sr. died of a heart attack in the middle of the trial.
July 2019. Trial wraps up.