THE Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS), lauded the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the arrest of Datu Harris Ampatuan, one of the suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
“I commend the men and women from the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headed by Brig Gen Eliseo Cruz for the arrest of Datu Harris Ampatuan, one of the accused in the 2009 massacre that claimed the lives of so many people. Being a member agency of this Presidential Task Force, we salute you for tirelessly heeding the call for justice,” said PTFoMS executive firector Joel Egco .
Described as one of the worst election-related violence incidents in the Philippine history, around 58 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, were killed on November 23, 2009 while in a caravan to witness the filing of candidacy of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu for the 2010 gubernatorial elections in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
“I assure you that we at the PTFOMS solemnly vow to not allow this gruesome tragedy to happen again. That is our reason why we have put in place several proactive measures to protect media workers this election season in collaboration with the PNP, such as the designation of Media Security Vanguards in every city, province and region all over the country,” the Palace official said.
Upon the request of Egco, the PNP has designated its Public Information Officers (PIOs) nationwide as PTFoMS’ Media Security Vanguards, so-called because they act as the first line of defense of media workers, especially during this crucial period of election when incidents of media violence are expected to rise.
The PNP reported that Datu Harris Ampatuan has been arrested by personnel of the CIDG Maguindanao Field Unit on April 20, 2022 at the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Compound, Cotabato City, by virtue of the warrant of arrest issued by Judge Jocelyn Solis Reyes of Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City against the suspect for the crime of 43 counts of murder.
Datu Harris, who had a bounty of P300,000 under DILG Memo Circular 2010-76, was part of the Ampatuan private army and was among those who attended the meetings where the Ampatuans planned the massacre and participated in the murder of 58 people on that fateful day in November of 2009.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, co-chair of the PTFOMS, welcomed this timely development. “The Duterte Administration has made it a high priority to bring to justice all persons involved in the Maguindanao Massacre. There is no escaping the law. It’s just a matter of time until all those responsible for this massacre are put behind bars,” Martin added.
Egco said that the Presidential Task Force is relentless in overseeing and monitoring the manhunt operations against the suspects still at large. Datu Harris’ arrest comes after an on-going directive by the Task Force for all law enforcement agencies to intensify the manhunt for the remaining suspects.
On December 19, 2019, Judge Solis-Reyes convicted Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan, the masterminds of the infamous Maguindanao Massacre, of 57 counts of murder and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua without parole. Twenty eight (28) other co-accused including police officers were also convicted of 57 counts of murder and sentenced to 40 years, while 15 other accused were sentenced to 6–10 years for being accessories to the crime.
Egco emphasized that the conviction was a product of the immense support given by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to the victims of the massacre. He pointed out that the massacre happened during the time of President Gloria Arroyo and despite his numerous promises, no verdict happened during the time of President Noynoy Aquino. It was only through the political will of President Duterte that justice was finally achieved.