Acting justice secretary Alberto Agra’s reversal of his ill-conceived resolution absolving two members of the powerful Ampatuan clan of charges over the November 23 massacre of 58 persons, including 32 of our colleagues, proves both the value of and the continued need for vigilance.
News reports quoted Agra on Wednesday as saying that he is “now convinced insofar as (suspended ARMM governor) Zaldy Ampatuan and (acting Maguindanao vice governor) Datu Akmad Ampatuan are concerned, that there is probable cause to pursue the case against them.”
The reversal of the resolution is, doubtless, a welcome development. No thanks, however, to Agra.
Indeed, if anything, all credit for the reversal should go to the families of the victims, their lawyers, the media community, and not least, the state prosecutors and the people in general who rightly railed against the obscenity of what could have been nothing but another ham-fisted attempt by this administration to let political expediency trump the rule of law, as it has done throughout its nine years of existence.
It was clear, as the prosecutors themselves pointed out, that there was no way Agra’s original resolution clearing the two Ampatuans could have been based on his supposed appreciation of the voluminous evidence a mere day after meeting with some of the victims’ relatives to assure them that he had yet to make up his mind.
The immediate and rousing anger that greeted his original decision were a clear enough signal that we would not be robbed of justice for this grievous crime, not just against the press, for whom the Ampatuan massacre was the single worst attack in history, but against the Filipino people and humanity.
If anything, he and his masters really had no choice. Anything short of reversal would have undoubtedly unleashed a firestorm that would sweep them away.
But this is, as yet, no time to ease up on vigilance. There have been persistent reports of continuing efforts to short cut the judicial process and spring more of the influential suspects.
No, Agra’s reversal does not let him or his masters off the hook yet.
Our demand remains the same. It is time for him and, yes, this administration to step aside and leave the administration of justice in a land too long deprived of it to more honorable men and women.
Nestor Burgos Jr.
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