Zero conviction in Maguindanao massacre case would mean death of press freedom, lawyer says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 5) — The only acceptable outcome of the Maguindanao massacre trial is conviction for the accused, a lawyer for the victims' families said Tuesday.

"If there will be no conviction, I am sorry to say that press freedom in the Philippines is dead," Nene Santos said in a media briefing.

"If nobody gets to jail for killing media people. where is democracy there, where is press freedom there?" she added.

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Santos, who oversaw the entire trial, expects no less than a guilty verdict against the accused led by Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan, Jr.

READ: 'Strong case' vs. Maguindanao massacre suspect despite witnesses' retraction

"We are the prosecution and we know our evidence and we know that we have submitted to the Honorable Court the evidence to convict the accused," Santos said.

She could not say if all the 104 individuals who faced trial would be found guilty, "but we are sure that the principal accused will be convicted."

Ampatuan was mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao province when he and his family's private armed group alegedly killed 58 people – shooting and decapitating them with chainsaws – on November 23, 2009. The victims include 32 media workers, civilians, and members of the Mangudadatu family – a rival political family of the Ampatuans.

The Maguindanao massacre has been tagged as the world's deadliest single attack on media workers, and the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines.

The Department of Justice expects the Maguindanao massacre to be resolved by November, 10 years after the gruesome mass killing.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos contributed to this report.