Long overdue justice for Ampatuan massacre victims

OPINION
By Susan Palmes-Dennis
December 21, 2019

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AMID all the socializing and catching up I did with family and friends in Cagayan de Oro City, I did learn about the ruling on the Ampatuan case last Thursday, Dec. 19.

There were no words to describe it at first but I felt no small sense of relief that not only was the case over but that the masterminds behind the massacre, the Ampatuans were convicted beyond reasonable doubt.

As a past chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) I join my former media colleagues in welcoming the court ruling that convicted the Ampatuan brothers Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan as well as 43 others for the gruesome murder of 58 persons that shook and shocked the world.

Sadly there are those still at large who could possibly harm the families of the victims in retaliation for the ruling and I pray that they also be rounded up and jailed, to rot behind bars for their heinous crime.  The Ampatuan massacre that occured on Nov. 23, 2009 was one of the reasons why I migrated to the US on May 2010.

That said, as a former media practitioner I do share the sentiment of the local media community that the conviction of the Ampatuan massacre masterminds and their accomplices in no way diminishes the threat to safety and security of mainstream media posed by political warlods, a hostile government and their paid for social media troll army.

If it’s not major media institutions like ABS-CBN or the Philippine Daily Inquirer who are being pressured to close shop, it’s media practitioners who are red-tagged by authorities for publishing stories critical of the incumbent administration even with the absence of concrete evidence.

These are dangerous times indeed not only for media practitioners but those who dare speak out against the powers that be.  But we are not deprived of the means to speak out and for those ‘in the resistance’,  the fight goes on and hopefully, things will get better even before 2022 rolls out.

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As someone pointed out, the Ampatuan massacre ruling was largely overshadowed on the global stage with the US Congress impeachment of US President Donald Trump and I must say, those in Washington should not ignore public sentiment over this political development.

While there are a large, maybe even growing number of Americans who despise the billionaire mogul turned leader of the Free World, there is also a large number of Americans, including a substantial number in the Filipino-American community who are supportive of and strongly against Trump’s ouster.

Let us be clear on this: Trump may be impeached but he is not yet unseated as President. Far as I can research on Google, three US presidents were impeached—Andrew Jackson, Bill Clinton and now Trump.  The late US president Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment, the first to do so in US history.

As Filipinos have seen in their three impeachment proceedings in Congress—one, an aborted Senate trial of former president Joseph Estrada that led to People Power 2 and two successful ousters of two former chief justices namely the late Renato Corona and Maria Lourdes Sereno—impeachment is basically a three-step process with the first step successfully taken by the Democrats.

With the US election just a year away, it remains to be seen if Trump will be ousted from office and if such ouster will bolster the chances of the Democrats, who are supposedly being influenced by hardcore socialist/communist wingers, to capture both the White House and Congress in 2020.

That said, I doubt if Trump would be ousted from office once the impeachment proceedings reach the Senate which is dominated by the Republican lawmakers. If anything, Trump’s impeachment is a morale boosting victory for the Democrats and their allies, a number of whom are in the mainstream media and in Hollywood.

Impeachment is a political process, a numbers game and if Trump survives this, he may come out even stronger and emerge victorious in the November 2020 elections, depending of course on American public sentiment towards this blatantly politically motivated initiative of the left-leaning Democrats.


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