Masterminds of Philippines’ worst political massacre jailed, Latest World News - The New Paper

Masterminds of Philippines’ worst political massacre jailed

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MANILA : The masterminds of the Philippines' worst political massacre were yesterday found guilty of murder, a decade after the slaughter in which gunmen killed 58 people in the conflict-plagued south of the country.

Leaders of the Ampatuan family, a powerful political dynasty, had been accused of orchestrating the killings in a bid to quash an election challenge from a rival clan.

Thirty-two journalists were among those murdered on November 23, 2009, making the massacre also one of the worst ever of media workers.

A Manila court on Thursday found Andal Ampatuan Jr, who had been planning to run for provincial governor against the rival, and four other relatives guilty of murder. They were each sentenced to 30 years in jail without parole.

There were roughly 100 defendants due for sentencing yesterday. The verdicts for the principals in the case, those accused of orchestrating the massacre and leading the killings, were announced first.

The murders had cast a spotlight on the Philippines' notorious culture of impunity, in which powerful and wealthy politicians and businessmen often operate above the law.

The Ampatuans ruled the impoverished southern province of Maguindanao and were allowed to build a heavily armed militia by then President Gloria Arroyo to serve as a buffer against a long-running Muslim insurgency in the region.

Prosecutors said family members and their associates carried out the attack in broad daylight on a convoy carrying an Ampatuan family rival's wife, relatives, lawyers and the journalists, who were killed in a hail of gunfire.

During the case's years of delays, patriarch Andal Ampatuan Sr and seven other defendants had died. - AFP