Media security task force to ‘pursue suspects at large’ in Maguindanao massacre

FILE – A backhoe digs a shallow grave as investigators try to find more bodies, victims of a massacre after gunmen shot at least 22 people in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province on November 25, 2009. Five more dead people were found in a hastily dug grave, an AFP photographer witnessed, on top of the 52 bodies already recovered from the massacre site. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE 

MANILA, Philippines — Commemorating the Maguindanao massacre, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Tuesday pledged to arrest the suspects at large in the Maguindanao massacre.

In a statement, the task force described the Maguindanao massacre, which happened on November 23, 2009, as “one of the darkest moments in our history” that claimed the lives of 32 journalists, media workers and other individuals.

“We shall relentlessly pursue suspects at large.  We will not stop until all suspects behind this heinous crime are arrested,” PTFoMS Executive Director Joel Sy Egco said.

Out of the 80 accused who were at large, only five suspects have already been caught since 2020 by the police and are now undergoing trial, Egco shared.

READ: Still no closure for Maguindanao massacre victims

In a recent interview in Net25, Egco advised media workers to take caution as threats surround them, especially during the election season.

He called on the Senate to pass the Media Workers Welfare Act to protect journalists.

“In connection with commemorating one of the most horrible events for journalists, we call on our honorable Senators’ approval of the Media Workers Welfare Act as an added protection for the economic vulnerability of our journos,” Egco said.

He, moreover, vowed to remove the Philippines from the Global Impunity Index of the Committee to Protect Journalists, noting that the country was declared as a “biggest mover” in the index in 2020.

On this day 12 years ago, a convoy of 58 people, bound for Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao to lodge the certificate of candidacy of then Maguindanao gubernatorial aspirant Esmael Mangudadatu, was ambushed by about 100 armed men.

On top of the 32 slain journalists, Mangudadatu’s wife, his two sisters, 12 other relatives and supporters were among those killed.

After almost a decade, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 on December 19, 2019, found eight members of the Ampatuan clan and 20 others guilty for 57 counts of murder and issued them with a penalty of reclusion perpetua without parole. Fifteen others were sentenced to six to 10 years for being accessories to the crime.

READ: Andal Ampatuan Jr., kin guilty for Maguindanao massacre of 57 people

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