The relatives of the Maguindanao massacre victims were not able to contain their joy as the lower court handed down on Thursday a guilty verdict to five members of the Ampatuan clan along with others accused.
"Talagang mahirap 'yung 10 taon na 'yun dahil ang tagal noon eh, ilang years 'yun na tiniis na walang conviction pa. Today, talagang happy na ako... dahil halos lahat silang principal [accused] ang nagawan ng conviction," said Caren Araneta, wife of a slain journalist.
Naiyak sa tuwa si Jergin Dela Cruz-Malabanan, anak ng isa sa 58 na biktima ng Maguindanao massacre. Masaya niyang ibinalita sa mga kaanak ang hatol ng korte laban sa mga akusado. @gmanews pic.twitter.com/aSOuVVkBbP— Dona Magsino (@donamagsino) December 19, 2019
Those who shared the grief of losing their loved ones hugged each other when the long-awaited verdict was read.
"Noong narinig namin na na-convict po sila, nagyakapan po kaming dalawa umiyak kami na hindi namin maintindihan dahil sa taon na hirap na dinanas namin mula sa umpisa," Catherine Nunez said as she referred to fellow complainant Editha Tiamzon.
"Sa wakas nakuha na namin ang hustisya," she added.
Both Nunez and Tiamzon lost family members who worked for UNTV.
Gerjin Dela Cruz-Malabanan, daughter of another local journalist who was killed, was not able to hold back her tears of joy.
"Sa mga kapatid ko po at mga kapamilya ko sa GenSan, heto na may hustisya na tayo kahit hindi lahat na-convict, at least yung mga principal na may kasalanan na-convict na sila," she said.
LOOK: Kin of Maguindanao massacre victims were all smiles as they rejoiced over the court’s decision on Thursday to give five out of the seven main accused Ampatuans a guilty verdict. @gmanews pic.twitter.com/ezaBp4Kgji— Dona Magsino (@donamagsino) December 19, 2019
Several members of the influential Ampatuan clan were declared guilty of multiple murder for the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao which was considered to be the worst election-related violence in the country.
Lawyer Harry Roque, one of the private prosecutors for the Maguindanao massacre case, said the decision brought closure to the families of the victims.
He, however, lamented that the convicts had been acquitted in one count of murder--that of journalist Reynaldo "Bebot" Momay whose remains has yet to be found.
"Nag-manifest po tayo na tayo ay mag-aapela sa civil aspect ng case na ito," Roque said, noting that Momay's dentures had been recovered from the massacre site.
Maguindanao Representative Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu was also satisfied with the result and expressed gratefulness to all who supported their cause.
"Salamat sa lahat ng media na tumutok, salamat kay Mayor Digong, salamat sa Panginoon at sa lahat ng mga biktimang hindi sumuko," he said.
Asked whether he has finally found closure, he said: "Matagal pa ito kasi may Court of Appeals, may Supreme Court at may 50 na second phase at may mga at-large pang 81."
Lawyer Nena Santos, legal counsel of Mangudadatu, said the court's conviction on Thursday will significantly help in putting to justice those accused who still remain at large.
Meanwhile, the lawyer of Akmad "Tato" Ampatuan Sr. who was acquitted in the murder cases, also said that the decision was just.
"Justice was done," defense lawyer Artemio Cana Sr. told reporters.