Public forum on the People vs. Ampatuan Decision
On January 29, 2020, a little over a month after the court Decision penned by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 convicting the influential Ampatuan brothers, Datu Andal Jr. and Zaldy Andal, of 57 counts of murder in the controversial “Maguindanao Massacre” of 2009, the Institute of Administration of Justice held a public forum to share various professional fields’ perspectives on the case. Investigative journalist and television host Malou Mangahas, forensic scientist Dr. Raquel R. Fortun and Atty. Theodore Te presented their respective insights on the case in Bocobo Hall, UP Law Center for the further appreciation and remembrance of the public of the events that led to the trial of the decade.
In the forum, the audience was eloquently reminded by Ms. Malou Mangahas of the magnitude of loss and injustice that transpired on November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao and the impunity that allowed such a tragedy that has been called “the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines” and “the single deadliest attack against media in the world.” Then, they were taken to the crime scene itself, as rarely seen in the news, courtesy of the forensic records and analysis provided by Dr. Raquel B. del Rosario-Fortun, who also pointed out lost opportunities for further evidence owed to lapses in forensic procedure and training. Finally, Atty. Thedore O. Te delved into the decision itself to lay out how the convictions were secured, with attention paid to which circumstances were taken into account and why the court ruled to acquit in the case of a 58th victim.
The forum was a fitting tribute and remembrance to the courage and expertise of those who pursued the ten-year old case. Indeed, the way to move forward is to get to know, remember and learn from the past in all its facets and nuances.