Philippines: court verdict on Ampatuan massacre a step forward for accountability and justice for victims

The ICJ said that today’s verdict by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court on the “Ampatuan Massacre” is a first step in achieving justice for the victims and their families.

The court found guilty several of the principal accused, including Zaldy Ampatuan, who is a former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The Ampatuan Massacre involved the killing of 58 people, including 32 journalists. It became known as the single deadliest attack against journalists globally.

“The Ampatuan massacre was a human rights tragedy that demonstrated how ingrained impunity has become in Philippine society,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser.

She added, “It clearly illustrated how respect for human rights has become a mockery in the Philippines, that it can be casually thwarted by a group of individuals who thought they can get away with the killing of 58 people, including journalists, in broad daylight.”

There are 197 accused named in this case, many of them members of the politically-powerful Ampatuan family. The principal accused, including Zaldy Ampatuan and several of his family members, were sentenced to imprisonment of reclusion perpetua (30 to 40 years) without parole. They were also ordered by the court to compensate the victims of the massacre.

The ICJ urged the Philippine government to use this case to now effectively address the culture of impunity in the country.

“The Philippine government should look to this case and use it more generally as a force for a comprehensive drive against impunity, which has been pervasive in unlawful killings, whether by State or private actors,” said Emerlynne Gil.


On 23 November 2009, Bai Genalyn Mangudadatu, wife of Esmael Mangudadatu, was accompanied by members of her family, lawyers, political supporters, and journalists to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband, Esmael Mangudadatu, for the upcoming elections. They were killed by men who later on were revealed to have been ordered by Andal Ampatuan Sr., Andal Ampatuan Jr., and several other members of the Ampatuan family. The Ampatuan family is the political rival of the Mangudadatus.

The convoy of vehicles accompanying the Mangudadatus was ambushed. Passers-by were also killed by the armed men. Their bodies and vehicles were buried in shallow graves nearby.

There were 58 people killed that day, including 32 journalists who were accompanying the Mangudadatus. This became known as the single deadliest attack against journalists globally.

There were 192 persons named as accused in this case, including members of the Ampatuan family and law enforcement officers who conspired with them.

The trial went on for ten years. On 19 November 2019, Branch 221 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City rendered its decision finding guilty beyond reasonable doubt 28 people, including Zaldy Ampatuan, his brother Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr, and several other Ampatuan family members. They were sentenced to reclusion perpetua (30 to 40 years) without parole.


Emerlynne Gil, Senior International Legal Advisor, International Commission of Jurists, t: +66 8409 235 75, e: emerlynne.gil(a)

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