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Arroyo's massacre let-off prompts backlash

Victims' families say she should face trial reporter, Cagayan de Oro

February 4, 2013

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The families of victims of the massacre that left 58 dead in Maguindanao in 2009 have condemned a decision by prosecutors to dismiss the possibility of charges against former president Gloria Arroyo.

A statement from Arroyo’s office on Sunday confirmed that the Manila Prosecutors Office ruled that a lack of evidence meant the former president could not be held liable for criminal negligence after the killings, the worst case of political violence in recent Philippine history.

Families say they had hoped that Arroyo would be held accountable for her role as president when supporters of the mayor of Datu Unsay, Andal Ampatuan Jr, allegedly rounded up and shot a group including a number of journalists who had planned to witness the registration of a rival candidate.

“[Arroyo] has a big liability in this massacre case under the command responsibility [rule],” said Emily Lopez, president of the Justice Now Movement made up of family members of massacre victims.

Typically such a ruling would be appropriate in cases in which leaders of a group or organization fail to prevent crimes committed by subordinates.

The decision not to prosecute Arroyo for negligence was a “slap in the face” for families of the victims, said Lopez.

Mark Cablitas, the son of one of the slain journalists, said that the justice process had come to a “standstill.”

Of the 196 accused of the massacre, about half remain in hiding.

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