It took almost two decades, but justice finally caught up with members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group.
Some 66 ASG members were convicted by a Pasig Court for the abduction of 52 teachers and students from two schools in Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan on March 20, 2000.
A Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 261 judge has found the 66 ASG members guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges and sentenced them to up to 40 years.
It also ordered the 66, who were convicted for varying counts of the crimes, to pay P180,000 each in damages to the victims and their heirs.
According to the decision which were released to the media on Friday, 20 of those accused were earlier acquitted of all 52 counts.
Some of those initially charged for kidnapping were the late Khadaffy Janjalani, Isnilon Hapilon, Aldam Tilao alias Abu Ahmad Sabaya.
Also charged was Hector Janjalani (Khadaffy’s brother), but his name was not included on the list of those convicted and/or acquitted.
Some of the names of the convicted Abu Sayyaf members were redacted.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong said that another promulgation of judgment is scheduled after Christmas.
Based on the charge sheet, the accused were “ranking officers and members” of the Abu Sayyaf group.
The ASG members abducted the public school teachers and school children and held them captive in a makeshift house in Puno Mahadji in Sampinit Mountain, located at the boundary of Sumisip, Maluso and Isabela towns.
Four of the kidnap victims, Claretian priest Rhoel Gallardo and three teachers, were later found dead on May 3, 2000. The bodies of the four victims reportedly bore signs of torture.