By Joey Sem G. Dalumpines
DAVAO CITY, Oct. 23 (PNA) — The legal counsel of the families of the victims in the Ampatuan massacre urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to give due compensation to the heirs of the victims given that majority of those involved in the crime were government functionaries when the incident happened 11 months ago.
Atty. Harry Roque, private prosecutor in the Ampatuan Massacre trial said under the International Humanitarian Law, it is the duty of the state to give just compensation to the families of those denied of their right to life especially when most of the perpetrators were people in the government.
He said the president had been aware of this clamor by the widows and bereaved families of the victims during the campaign period in an audience with them.
“Under the International Humanitarian Law, the compensation must be enough to extinguish the impact of the illegal act,” Roque said, during a forum in commemoration of the Ampatuan Massacre held Friday at the Pink room of the Sangguniang Panlungsod here.
The forum was spearheaded by the United People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines-Davao City Chapter.
Roque said that the families of every victim could be given not less than P10 million each, which the president could source from his social fund, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes.
Roque said that it was the duty of the state to give justice and just compensation to the victims over and above the indemnification to be given by the accused.
He also called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the Witness Protection Program and to separate it from the National Prosecution Service in order to ensure full protection and cooperation among witnesses.
Roque said that several witnesses were anxious of their security after two respondents in the killing of Jessie, one of the first witnesses of the prosecution, were released on the basis of mere technicality.
He said based on the police investigation, the pistols taken from the suspects matched with ballistic examination conducted from the shells and slugs found at the crime scene.
“Two assassins are practically on the loose with them free out there,” Roque said.
He also said that not all families of victims received the financial assistance given by the Arroyo administration, several months after the incident, citing the case of Juliet Ibardo, mother of Julieto Ibardo, a crew-member of the UN-TV who was killed in the massacre, and yet received nothing.
Roque recalled the Arroyo administration bragging about the P50 million financial assistance given to the families of the victims sourced allegedly from the Federation of Philippine Enterprises, yet only P50,000 ended to the hands of the victims’ families.
“Where did the rest of the money go,” he asked.
Roque affirmed the victims’ families have a strong case against the accused despite them having a battery of lawyers.
Julieta Ibardo also urged the government to assist them in their pursuit for justice.
She recalled the pain of losing her son in the incident.
Ibardo said she aspires to attain justice for her son, even before she dies.
Cipriana Gatchalian, widow of Santos Gatchalian of the Mindanao Gazette, shared about remembering her husband through the pets and plants he left her.
She also vowed to pursue justice of her husband.
Gatchalian also lauded Atty. Roque for providing them fare and place to stay during the hearing of the case in Manila.
Atty Carlos Isagani Zabate, convernor of the United People’s Lawyers for Mindanao, given the limitation and slow litigation of the Ampatuan massacre in the court, the pursuit of justice must be pursued in other fora like the streets and other venues.