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Kin of journalists slain in Ampatuan massacre demand end to intrigues, urge unity

The families of the 32 journalists who lost their lives in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre demanded an end to what they called intrigues intended to sow disunity between them and organizations that have been assisting them for the past decade.

In all, 58 persons were murdered in what has been acknowledged as the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.

Joining members and officers of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines who held an activity in General Santos City as part of the monthly countdown leading up to the 10th anniversary of the massacre, the families, who have organized themselves as JUSTICE NOW, issued a statement “to clarify any misimpressions created by certain groups and personalities who claim that we are demanding an accounting of the assistance we received through media organizations.”

This was in response to earlier claims that families of the slain journalists were demanding an accounting of all donations intended for them because of the supposed “broken promises” of livelihood and scholarships by media organizations through whom funds were channeled.

“We are aware that, although no names were mentioned, the supposed demand for accountability was primarily targeted at the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which, we once again stress, was one of the first organizations to rush to our side right after the massacre and has never left us since then,” JIUSTICE NOW said.

The families also stressed that “we have not and are not demanding, as some quarters claim, demanding that the NUJP open its records and show us where the funds and other assistance meant for us went.”

“If there is anything we are demanding, it is that government show the records of where the international assistance reportedly channeled through it has gone,” the families said.

JUSTICE NOW said it knew how the assistance coursed through the NUJP had been used “since we see the living proof of this – our children who have availed of the scholarships NUJP helped secure for them, many of whom have graduated and are now helping support our families, replacing the breadwinners we lost 10 years ago.”

It also acknowledged that the funding for the scholarships had run out because “they NUJP has been very open with us” and they were also informed by the International Federation of Journalists, which secured the assistance.

“But this is not about money,” the families stressed. “This is about unity – ours as the victims’ families and that which we forged with the NUJP 10 years ago – and our continued call for justice.”

At the same time, they called on those seeking to sow division among them to stop because “you do not speak for us and have no right to.”

“We ask you instead to join us in continuing to demand justice for the 58 persons who lost their lives in the massacre through the final conviction and punishment of all those involved in planning and carrying out” the massacre.

Following is the full statement of JUSTICE NOW:

We, the families of the 32 media workers who lost their lives in the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, organized as the JUSTICE NOW MOVEMENT, wish to issue this position paper to clarify any misimpressions created by certain groups and personalities who claim that we are demanding an accounting of the assistance we received through media organizations.

We are aware that, although no names were mentioned, the supposed demand for accountability was primarily targeted at the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, which, we once again stress, was one of the first organizations to rush to our side right after the massacre and has never left us since then.

In fact, our presence here today with the NUJP at the monthly countdown to the 10th anniversary of the massacre is proof that what we promised each other since that fateful day – “Walang iwanan” – holds true to this day. 
JUSTICE NOW also clarifies that we have not and are not demanding, as some quarters claim, that the NUJP open its records and show us where the funds and other assistance meant for us went.

This is because we are fully aware that the NUJP is an organization of working journalists and does not have the funds for this kind of work, and that what it does is help source and secure the assistance needed by the families of murdered journalists, not only those of the victims of the massacre.

Aside from this, we know very well where and how these were spent since we see the living proof of this – our children who have availed of the scholarships NUJP helped secure for them, many of whom have graduated and are now helping support our families, replacing the breadwinners we lost 10 years ago.

The NUJP has also been very open with us, updating and consulting us regularly. We also know that the scholarship fund has finally run out as we were informed about this last year by the International Federation of Journalists, which secured the assistance. If there is anything we are demanding, it is that government show the records of where the international assistance reportedly channeled through it has gone.

In the aftermath of the massacre, many promises of help were made. In fact, not just by government but even by other media groups. However, because the masterminds who planned and led in carrying out the massacre were government officials and agents, we feel it is the State that carries the primary responsibility of providing assistance to us and explaining why this has not been forthcoming, after a decade.

We remember in the aftermath of the massacre that then Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman made us undergo a seminar on proposal making and promised that the output would lead to funding assistance. We understand that release documents had been prepared for approved proposals. Yet, to date, we have received nothing.

But this is not about money. This is about unity – ours as the victims’ families and that which we forged with the NUJP 10 years ago – and our continued call for justice. We call on the quarters behind these attempts to break our unity by raising the bogey of funding and so-called demands for transparency and accountability to stop.

You do not speak for us and have no right to. We ask you instead to join us in continuing to demand justice for the 58 persons who lost their lives in the massacre through the final conviction and punishment of all those involved in planning and carrying out the worst incident of electoral violence in our country’s recent history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever.

Our call remains, JUSTICE NOW, CONVICT AMPATUAN!

Reference:
Emily Lopez, Chairperson
Mary Grace Morales, Secretary General

NUJP statement on the 9th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre

Today, November 23, 2018, is the ninth year since a power-crazed madman and his armed minions, among them members of the police, halted a convoy on the national highway in Barangay Saqlman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao and herded the passengers, along with those of two vehicles that just happened to pass by, to a hilltop in Sitio Masalay and slaughtered them.

In the convoy were relatives and supporters of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who intended to file his candidacy for governor of Maguindanao against Andal “Datu Unsay” Ampatuan Jr., scion of the powerful clan that ruled the province, and 32 journalists who were there to cover the proceedings.

All in all, 58 persons died, making the Ampatuan massacre both the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.

One would expect that justice would be swift in coming for a crime that literally shocked the world, so horrendous was it in both cruelty and scale. But no, the Justice department of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo chose to file what legal experts then called as “case designed to fail,” charging more than 190 persons instead of concentrating first on the principal suspects, key members of the Ampatuan clan, thus ensuring that the prosecution would stretch on for years. The most optimistic opinion on when the earliest conviction could be expected was 10 years.

A year short of that prediction, it is but right for the victims’ families, tired of the extremely slow pace of the trial, to shout “Justice Now” and “Convict Ampatuan.”

In fact, signaling their impatience, this year’s observance had the families of both non-media and media victims coming together to remember and honor their loved ones and, together, demand the justice they have long been deprived of.

While we are heartened by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s statement that a conviction may, at last, be forthcoming, we also hope this does not signal any intervention by the executive branch that could lead to a miscarriage of justice.

And while a closure to this tragedy is most welcome, we stress that it should not in any way detract from the State’s continued accountability for its continued failure to bring an end to the threats and attacks against journalists and to give justice to the more than 100 other victims of media killings since 1986.

#JUSTICENOW

#CONVICTAMPATUAN

#ENDTHEKILLINGS

Pahayag ng mga pamilya ng mga biktima ng Ampatuan Massacre tungkol sa panandaliang paglaya ni Zaldy Ampatuan

Agosto 23, 2018

Kaming mga naiwang pamilya ng 32 mamamahayag na kabilang sa 58 kataong walang awang pinaslang sa Ampatuan massacre noong November 23, 2009, ay kinokondena ang naging desisyon ng Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 na payagang makalabas ng kulungan at dumalo sa kasal ng kanyang anak ang isa sa mga akusado na si Zaldy Ampatuan.

Labis na nagdurugo ang aming mga puso at sumasabog sa galit ang aming mga damdamin sa pagsasawalang bahala na ito ng korte sa aming mga asawa, anak, kapatid at kaanak na hanggang ngayo’y nagdadalamhati halos siyam na taon na matapos ang pinakabrutal na insidente ng pamamaslang ng mga mamamahayag sa kasaysayan.

Isang insultong hindi katanggap-tanggap para sa amin na malaman na ang isa sa mga nagplano ng karumal-dumal na krimen ay makalalanghap ng hangin ng kalayaan kahit sa maikling panahon para makasama ang kanyang pamilya, isang bagay na habambuhay na ipinagkait sa amin.

Ang mas nakalulungkot dito ay hindi namin ito inasahan at walang nagpaabot sa amin ng impormasyon na dumulog sa korte si Zaldy Ampatuan para umapela na bigyan siya ng permisong dumalo sa isang kasalan. Kung nalaman agad namin ito, hinding-hindi namin ito palalampasin at mahigpit itong tututulan.

Kaya ang tanong namin sa aming tagapagtanggol: Sino ba ang inyong kinakatawan sa kasong ito?

Tanong din namin sa korte: Patas at makatarungan ba na bigyan si Zaldy Ampatuan ng pribilehiyong hindi makamit ng ibang presong may mas magagaang na kaso? Makaaasa pa ba kami ng katarungan para sa aming mga mahal sa buhay?

Sana ay maunawaan kami sakaling may nasaling sa paglabas ng aming nga hinanaing tungkol sa tinatakbo ng kaso. Pero matapos ang siyam na taon at wala pang naparurusahan isa man sa mga maysala, aaminin namin na ang aming tiwala sa sistema ng hustisya ay lubos na nasusubok.

Pagkatapos ng masaker, tinaya ng mga eksperto na aabutin ng sampung taon o isang dekada bago may maparusahan sa krimen na ito. Nalalapit na ang panahon na iyon pero ang pagkamit ng hustisya ay nananatiling mailap.

Sa halos isang dekadang inaasam-asam namin ang katarungan ang bubungad sa amin ay ang pribilehiyong tinamasa niya. Ano ang dapat naming maramdaman?

Sa mga humahawak ng kaso, huwag naman po ninyo paglaruan ang kaso dahil hindi po nakakatuwa.

Reference:

Grace Morales
Asawa ni Rosell Morales ng News Focus 6
Tagapagsalita, Justice Now!

 

ALTERMIDYA EDITORIAL: Ampatuan Massacre, a grim symbol of reigning impunity under Aquino

23 November 2015

It is Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s last year in office but justice remains elusive for the victims of Ampatuan massacre. No perpetrator has been convicted, the victims still cry for justice. Aquino’s vow six years ago to immediately resolve the gruesome massacre has become a hollow promise: the culture of impunity and sheer lack of accountability continues to reign under his administration.

The Ampatuan massacre, considered as the single most violent incident in the history of Philippine media, claimed the lives of 58 people including 32 journalists on November 23, 2009. The case against the alleged masterminds, the Ampatuan warlord clan, moves painfully slow.

The court case, after six years, is still at its preliminary stage at gathering evidence and bail proceedings. One of the primary suspects, Ampatuan patriarch, former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. died early this year of liver cancer, extinguishing his criminal liability in the massacre case. Another suspect, Sajid Ampatuan, was released and is running for mayor of Shariff Aguak, under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay, in the 2016 polls. Majority of the suspects including members of the clan’s private army and several police officers are still at large or were granted bail.

The gross failure and lack of interest of the Aquino government to swiftly bring justice to the victims and end impunity continues to cultivate a dangerous atmosphere for Filipinos, media worker or not. After the Ampatuan massacre, the killing of journalists persists under Aquino’s term. The recent killing of DWIZ correspondent Jose Bernardo brings the total number of murdered journalists to 30 under the Aquino administration and 150 since 1986.

Extrajudicial killings of political activists, human rights defenders, indigenous people, and community leaders continue. Threats and harassment of state critics are intensifying. All these are a bleak reminder of the escalating impunity in the country and the ineptness of government that breeds it.

Six years of waiting has been enough. The Ampatuan massacre is a pivotal issue in the people’s struggle against growing impunity. Another day of delay in bringing justice to the 58 victims is another license for greater human rights violations and unaccountability in the country. We could no longer allow this government, or the next, to continue this injustice. We hold the Aquino government accountable for this injustice as well as its own crimes against the people.  We would persist in demanding for justice for the victims and their families of the Ampatuan massacre, and all cases of extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

Accountability for these murders, for political repression, the absence of justice, and the persisting culture of impunity are all the responsibility of the President and the State. #

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Altermidya-People’s Alternative Media Network is a national network of independent and progressive media outfits, institutions and individuals. Kodao Productions is a founding member of Altermidya.