By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – “It’s elating and relieving.”
This was how Mayhang Reblando-Zainal described Monday a published report citing President Duterte as pledging the kin of the Maguindanao massacre victims that they would get justice during his watch.
Zainal, daughter of Gen. Santos City-based Manila Bulletin journalist Alejandro (Bong) Reblando who was among the 32 media workers slain in the massacre, said she took “partial relief” from the Chief executive’s assurance.
President Duterte made the vow at his meeting in Malacañang with some relatives of massacre victims last Nov. 23, the same day hundreds of other kin and supporters of 58 fatalities staged solemn rites marking their 8th year reckoning at the carnage site in sitio Masalay, barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
At that meeting, the President ordered Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, concerned state prosecutors, and the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFMS) to take steps to ensure that a conviction would be handed down soon, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
Mr. Duterte, a former prosecutor, shared his thoughts on intricacies in the justice system, including the fact that the accused have a right to be heard, which is sacred in a democracy, Roque said.
“Nevertheless, he expressed optimism that the strength of the case against them—188 respondents in all—will eventually lead to a verdict favorable to the victims,” the Palace spokesperson added.
Duterte also committed to arrange employment, scholarships and financial assistance for families of the massacre victims, adding that his administration would see to it that there would be justice for all victims of violence against members of the working press, Roque said.
Zainal said she had not joined neither the Palace meeting nor the anniversary rites at the massacre site because she was busy looking for resources for her own family, citing the handicap caused in their household by the death of her “bread-winner” father.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael (Toto) Mangudadatu, who lost his wife, Genalyn, two sisters and other female relatives in the massacre, yesterday expressed similar elation over the Presidential pledge.
“We welcome the assurance with high degree of initial relief…I personally know the President for his habit of fulfilling every promise he makes,” the governor told the Bulletin over the phone.
Three days before the 8th year anniversary commemoration in Ampatuan town, the governor’s son, provincial board member Jazzer (King)Mangudadatu, informed reporters of a plan to invite the President to the massacre site.
But on Nov. 23, Gov. Mangudadatu said they did not push through with the invitation because “we have a standing assurance of support from the President.”
Hundreds of relatives and supporters joined the governor at the massacre site where top military officials vowed to help in the hunt against other prime suspects in the massacre still at large.
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