FULL JUSTICE. Photo shows the headstones bearing the names of the 58 people, including 32 media workers, who were killed in the grisly Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre at the same site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The families of the victims vow to continue their quest for justice. (PNA GenSan photo)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The families of journalists here, who were killed in the grisly Ampatuan massacre on Nov. 23, 2009, vowed on Monday to sustain the fight for “full justice” for the victims -- no matter how long it will take.

The victims’ families reiterated the commitment as they commemorated the 11th anniversary of the massacre in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, which killed 58 people, including 32 media workers.

“We will continue this fight until we achieve the full justice that the victims deserve,” said Mary Grace Morales, secretary of the Justice Now Movement.

Morales lost her husband Rossell and sister Marites Cablitas, both then working for the weekly tabloid News Focus, in the massacre.

She said they only obtained "partial justice" in the conviction in December last year of former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., and his brother Zaldy, the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

While the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 226 meted a guilty verdict for the Ampatuan brothers and 43 other suspects, she noted that at least 56 other people were acquitted, including Sajid Ampatuan.

Still at-large

“There are also other suspects who are still at-large and have not been brought to the court after 11 years,” Morales said in a radio interview.

Jergin Dela Cruz Malabanan, the eldest daughter of slain journalist Gina Dela Cruz, said in an interview that they continue to feel threatened because of the acquittal of Sajid Ampatuan, who is now the mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao.

She said the Sajid should have been convicted along with his elder brothers due to his alleged participation in the massacre.

“There were also at least 40 suspects cleared in the second batch of the cases despite the prosecution panel finding probable cause. This is really far from over,” she said.

For his part, Eliver Cablitas said he is hoping for the dismissal of the pending appeals filed by the camp of the Ampatuans regarding the convictions.

He said they also want to receive the “civil damages” awarded by the court in connection with the initial decision.

The victims’ families held a mass and candle lighting ceremony on Monday afternoon at the Forest Lake Memorial Park here, where 12 of the slain journalists were buried side-by-side, to commemorate the 11th year of the massacre.

They earlier canceled the annual visit to the massacre site in Ampatuan, Maguindanao due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. (PNA)