The main suspect in the 2009 Philippine massacre that killed over 50 people died late Friday at a hospital, his lawyer said Saturday. Andal Ampatuan Sr., a former Philippine governor, was accused of ordering the mass murder of a rival family and journalists in the southern part of the country.
The 74-year-old former governor of Maguindanao province, on the southern island of Mindanao, was on trial and was hospitalized after he was diagnosed with liver cancer, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Last week, he went into coma after suffering a heart attack, his lawyer Salvador Panelo reportedly said. Ampatuan and his relatives were accused of killing 58 people, including 32 journalists, on Nov. 23, 2009.
"We decry the fact that the delay in the system has resulted in this -- that both accused and the victims were deprived of a judicial declaration of whether or not he is guilty," private prosecutor Harry Roque, who represents several of the victims' families, told the AP, while expressing his disappointment over Ampatuan’s death before the end of the trial. "It should never happen again that something as gruesome as this takes as long as it has taken" to resolve.
Widows of the victims reportedly said that they could not forgive Ampatuan and his family. Ampatuan was among 100 others who were facing trial over the mass killings. A total of 198 suspects were reportedly identified in the case, but about 120 had been arrested.
"I could not forgive him because he has shown no remorse, and the fact that the case has dragged adds to our pain," Gloria Teodoro, whose journalist husband died in the massacre, told Agence France-Presse. "When I saw news of his death today, it was mixed emotions. I was happy that he's dead, but sad because we have not gotten justice."