MANILA - The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has sought "credible explanation" on the furlough granted to Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the principal accused in the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao.
In a statement posted late Tuesday, hours after photos of Ampatuan attending his daughter's wedding surfaced, the group lamented that 9 years since the rampage that killed 58 people, including 32 media workers, no one has been convicted and another accused, Sajid Ampatuan, was granted bail.
"That and now this, we feel, gives us and the victims' families more than enough cause to worry about whether we can truly expect justice for this most grievous of crimes," NUJP said.
"While we may understand a parent's desire to be present at such an important milestone in the life of a child, we stress that the crime of which Mr. Ampatuan is accused of is of such a heinous nature that the shock and outrage it stirred around the world forced then President Gloria Arroyo to move against the powerful clan that was among her staunchest allies," it said.
The journalists group also hit the state prosecutors, noting that Ampatuan's camp would have had to petition for the furlough in advance.
"Where were the state prosecutors in all this? Did they contest the petition? Perhaps, more importantly, did they even inform the families of the victims and other parties to the case?"
"At the very least, the prosecution owes the public a full account and credible explanation," NUJP said.
The NUJP cited a post by Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Shahali of a picture with Ampatuan and a video of the wedding at a swanky hotel in Pasay City.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology also confirmed that Ampatuan was able to leave jail on Tuesday after a court order allowed him to attend a family event for 3 hours.
Senior Insp. Xavier Solda, spokesperson for the BJMP, said the former governor left at 4 p.m. and promptly returned at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
"We all know that most people accused of lesser offenses almost never get to enjoy a privilege as that granted Zaldy Ampatuan. What made him an exception to the rule?," the NUJP said.
Ampatuan faces 58 counts of murder in connection with the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.