Kin of Maguindanao massacre victims appeal to Duterte for justice

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Cotabato City (CNN Philippines, November 23) — Eight years after the tragedy in Sitio Masalay, Brgy. Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, families of the 58 people killed in the Maguindanao massacre are asking President Rodrigo Duterte to finally lay the case to rest.

The victims' kin gathered at the site's shrine to commemorate the tragedy.

Speaking at the commemoration, former Buluan Mayor Jong Mangudadatu – the younger brother of Governor Esmael Mangudadatu – recalled President Duterte immediately extended his help after learning of the massacre.

He said the then-Davao mayor lent him his chopper to locate the victims.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, who lost his wife, Genelyn Tiamzon Mangudadatu in the massacre, said he still believes justice will be served.

He appealed to Dutere, saying now was the time to give victims justice.

Governor Mangudadatu added 81 more suspects of the massacre incident were still at large, adding that eight years later, his children are still living in fear – hiding because they are afraid of being kidnapped.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman, who attended the commemoration, said the sacrifices made by those killed eight years ago, shifted the political situation of the province from the powerful Ampatuan regime.

Palace: Maguindanao massacre to be resolved soon

Malacañang on Thursday said the 2009 Maguindanao massacre – where 58 people, mostly journalists, were killed ¬ may be resolved in four years.

"The DOJ (Department of Justice) estimated that at the rate the trial is moving, the case may be resolved in four years, based on the assumption that the defense will present an equal number of witnesses as that of the prosecution," Communications Undersecretary Joel Egco  said in a news briefing.

READ: Palace: Maguindanao massacre case to be resolved by 2021

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who represented some of the families of the victims as a private lawyer, said at the news briefing that convictions may be possible as early as this year.

The Maguindanao massacre happened on Nov. 23, 2009, when some 100 gunmen killed 32 journalists, six passers-by, and relatives and associates of then-Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangundadatu at a hillside road in Sitio Masilay, Ampatuan town.

The journalists were part of a convoy heading to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak to file Mangundadatu's certificate of candidacy for the 2010 national elections.

Mangundadatu was running for Maguindanao governor, a post held at the time by Andal Ampatuan Sr., the father of Mangundadatu's opponent, then-Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Mangundadatu eventually won the election.

The Ampatuans are among the 188 accused of committing the massacre, with 106 currently undergoing trial. However, Ampatuan Sr. died in July 2015.

The trial for the Maguindanao massacre has been ongoing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court since Aug. 31, 2010.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.