Philippine bishops commended the guilty verdict against a powerful clan in the southern Philippines for the killing of at least 57 people, mostly journalists, in 2009.
“Lessons should be learned that political warlordism must never be tolerated and eventually stopped,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga.
In what is regarded as the world’s single deadliest attack on journalists, the court convicted 28 people, including five members of a powerful political clan in Mindanao.
“Finally, justice is rendered and served. May those innocent victims now rest in peace. Let there be reparations for the bereaved,” said Bishop Santos.
The prelate, however, said that everyone, including those serving in government, must act so that a repeat of the 2009 massacre does not occur.
He urged political leaders to “reject violence” and “work hand in hand for the common good; for the betterment and the preservation of life.”
Retired Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon praised the court, saying more than a decade after the “terrible crime,” justice has been served.
“But why did it take so long to mete out the sentence against the criminals,” he asked.
Bishop Bastes also expressed dissatisfaction after some members of the powerful Ampatuan clan of Mindanao and police officers suspected in the massacre were exonerated.
The presiding judge acquitted 56 of the accused, including two of the seven principal suspects, after the prosecution failed to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prelate said justice is not yet complete because more than 80 of those accused in the massacre are still at large.
He urged the government to exhaust every possible measure to bring other perpetrators to justice so that they may “pay for their sins.”
In a press briefing following the reading of the verdict, families of the victims said that while they applaud the guilty verdict, they are also concerned for their safety.
Mary Grace Morales, who lost her husband Rosell and her sister Marites Cablitas, said she still fears for her life because “those who were acquitted and those who are still at large may retaliate.”
“It is very possible for them to do that to us because they did that to some of our witnesses and the families of the victims of the murders,” she said.
Jay Mark Jhoy Duhay, the 20-year old son of slain journalist Jhoy Duhay, said the decade-long wait “was worth it.”
He, however, urged the government to provide them security against “the people who want to hurt us” because they were able to convict members of an influential family.
“They are near to us and they can easily come to us. We are in the same region in Mindanao. They can do whatever they want if we remain unshielded,” he said.