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Int'l group to look into media killings

December 17, 2014 · 

Erika Sauler, Julie S. Alipala |
Inquirer Mindanao  
Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
the site where 58 people, including journalists, were slaughtered by followers and members of a political clan on Nov. 23, 2009, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province.

the site where 58 people, including journalists, were slaughtered by followers and members of a political clan on Nov. 23, 2009, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province.


A solidarity mission led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) will arrive in the Philippines to look into the status of the Maguindanao massacre case five years after the killings that took the lives of 58 people, including 32 media workers.

The IFJ investigation is part of the weeklong activities launched by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to mark “five years of loss and of a search for justice that remains elusive.”

“We hope this mission will put pressure on the government to make decisive actions to address media killings,” NUJP chair Rowena Paraan said in a press briefing Monday in Quezon City.

Paraan added that discussions on the Maguindanao massacre should also refer to the killings in other sectors seeking reforms, such as activists, environmentalists, lawyers and indigenous peoples.

“The situation of media killings is a reflection of what is happening in the bigger society. We need to address the system of political patronage, of warlordism and the culture of impunity,” Paraan said.

“These killings happen because you have the likes of the Ampatuans who can remain in power for so many years because they are tolerated, even encouraged, by national leaders who rely on these warlords for votes during elections,” she added.

The Ampatuans are tagged the masterminds of the Nov. 23, 2009, massacre to thwart the gubernatorial bid of their rival, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu. Of the 197 accused in the ongoing trial, 15 are members of the Ampatuan clan.

The international delegation will meet with the families of the victims and with the local media in General Santos City on Nov. 20. The following day, the group will visit the hilltop at Sitio Masalay in Barangay (village) Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, where the 58 victims were slaughtered.

The delegates will meet afterward with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and other concerned government officials.

The activities will culminate with a candle-lighting program, “One Million Candles for Justice,” at Edsa Shrine on Nov. 23, which also marks the International Day to End Impunity. Members of International Freedom of Expression Exchange will join the activity in their respective countries.

The public is encouraged to light a candle wherever they are and to post a photo on social media to express solidarity.

“From today until Nov. 23 and beyond, let us remind this government of its unfulfilled and broken promises of justice, of respect for our basic rights and freedoms, of good governance,” NUJP said in a statement.

In Zamboanga City, Filipino music icon Freddie Aguilar will jam with journalists on the eve of the fifth-year commemoration of the Maguindanao massacre.

“There will be singing, which will be our way of sending a message to the government that we are still asking for justice,” Mangudadatu told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

The concert will be held on the night of Nov. 22 in Buluan town. The next day, Mangudadatu said, he would visit the massacre site with De Lima.

Among those killed in the carnage were Mangudadatu’s wife and relatives, who were on their way to Shariff Aguak town to file his candidacy for governor. They were blocked, allegedly by members of the Ampatuan clan and their armed followers, and brought to a secluded place in Salman, where they were killed.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman said five years “is long enough to render justice for the families and relatives of slain journalists and other civilians.”

“I pray that before I leave the ARMM, there would be a resolution of the case. There has to be conviction,” Hataman told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

As a result of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the ARMM will be replaced by a new political entity, the Bangsamoro.

Mangudadatu said he also hoped that there would be a conviction before the ARMM ceased to exist.

“We also hope that after the presentation of all the evidence on the part of the defense, we can expect conviction, a decision from the judge,” he said.

More than a hundred suspects are now in jail for their alleged involvement in the massacre.

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