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FOCAP: Ampatuan convictions only acceptable outcome

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) said the conviction of all perpetrators, especially the masterminds, is acceptable on the expected Ampatuan massacre case ruling next month.

In a statement issued two days before the 10th anniversary of the massacre, the FOCAP said it renews its call for a closure that will bring justice to the 58 victims, 32 of whom were journalists.

“Convictions of the perpetrators and full recompense of the victims’ families will be a first step in reversing the long and tragic injustice,” the group said.

FOCAP said nothing can justify another delay of even just one more day.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 presiding judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes has been given until December 10 to submit a copy of her decision to the Supreme Court and until December 20 to promulgate it.

The cases’ promulgation was originally expected to be held on or before November 20 but Solis-Reyes asked for a 30-day extension “due to the voluminous records of these cases.”

The case dragged on for more than a decade which private prosecutor Nena Santos blamed on the “delaying tactics” employed by the principal respondents, the Ampatuans.

FOCAP added that the Philippine government has to do much more to banish the political barbarism that engenders media killings.

“The horrific display of impunity that claimed 58 lives, including 32 Philippine media workers, on November 23, 2009 underscored the deadly mix of political abuse and government failures that remains a threat we face today,” FOCAP said.

“Already regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, the Philippines became the scene of the deadliest single attack on media workers with the savage killings in Ampatuan town,” FOCAP added.

The group called on officials at the highest level to take effective steps to stop all forms of attacks and intimidation against journalists.

“They should fulfill their core constitutional duty to protect fundamental freedoms,” the group added.

10th anniversary activities

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) announced its series of activities commemorating the anniversary of the massacre.

The group announced its concert dubbed #FIGHTFOR58: A Concert for Justice at the Mows Bar in Matalino Street, Quezon City on November 22 at seven o’clock in the evening.

The concert is for the benefit of the families of the massacre victims.

At five o’clock in the morning of November 23, journalists, artists and other allies will collectively paint a mural depicting their call for justice for the massacre victims.

They will then march on to Mendiola at 10 o’clock in the morning, pausing for 58 seconds at exactly 11.23 AM to pay respect to the victims.

At Mendiola, they will erect a wall-sized installation of the photos of the victims.

NUJP’s chapters nationwide shall hold their own commemoration activities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bacolod journos to remember Maguindanao massacre victims

By Visayas Today

Officers and members of the Negros Press Club and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chapter reiterated their call for justice for the victims of the massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao that killed 58 people, including 32 journalists, 10 years ago.

The local media groups will mark their death anniversary with a tribute at the NPC building on Friday, November 22, at 3 p.m.

It will be followed by the lighting of candles and offering of prayers at the Marker for Fallen Journalists at the public plaza.

The victims’ kin, campus journalists, students, and civic leaders are also expected to join the commemoration.

On November 23, 2009, the 58 victims, including the 32 journalists, were shot to death on the way to the provincial poll office for the filing of certificate of candidacy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, for governor against Andal Ampatuan Jr., the son of the governor at the time, Andal Ampatuan Sr., the alleged mastermind of the massacre who died in 2015.

The promulgation of judgment is expected to be handed down on or before December 20 this year.

The Maguindanao massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence in recent Philippine history and the worst attack on journalists the world has known. #

NUJP Europe commemorates Ampatuan Massacre’s 10th anniversary

By Macel Ingles

ROME, Italy—Members of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP)-Europe Chapter joined the Roman Catholic community in Rome to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre where 58 people were killed, 32 of whom were media workers.

In a commemoration Mass officiated Fr. Ricky Gente, chaplain priest of the Sentro Filipino Chaplaincy at the Basilica de Sta. Prudenziana in Rome, 17 November, he reminded the parishioners of the need to keep the memory of the slain media workers and the rest of the 58 victims alive and called for support to the families of the victims in their quest for justice.

In a statement read at the Mass, NUJP Europe called the slow Ampatuan trial an indictment of the culture of impunity in the Philippines.

During the Mass, a minute of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony were held.

NUJP-Europe members light candles for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre. (Photo by macel Ingles)

Edu del Carmen, chairperson of the Rome-based Filipino organization Umangat Migrante also read a solidarity message.

“Mahigpit kaming nakikiisa sa inyong isasagawang pag-alala sa mga biktima at kasama kaming nanawagan para sa kagyat na katarungan para sa mga biktima,” del Carmen said.

The Ampatuan massacre of November 23, 2009 is regarded as the worst incident of electoral violence in Philippine history and the world’s single biggest attack on journalists.

The Philippine Supreme Court recently granted the 30-day extension on the deadline for the ruling on the cases against Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. and close to 200 others charged for the mass killing.

NUJP-Europe Chapter members who attended the event are journalists from Germany, Spain, Norway, United Kingdom (UK), and Italy. 

The chapter was formed in 2015 by Filipino journalists from Germany, Ireland, Norway, UK, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and France. #

Remembering Ampatuan Massacre and the reigning impunity

By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG and ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA- Nonoy Espina and Jes Aznar could have been dead 10 years ago.

Espina, former director of National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) and now its chairperson, and Aznar, then a photojournalist of Agence France Press, were in Maguindanao covering the armed group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). While in the province, they heard from local reporters that Esmael Mangundadatu would file his certificate of candidacy against Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Espina thought it worthy to write a story about the two big names in Maguindanao. He and Aznar decided to pursue it. Flu struck him the day before the filing however and the two decided to fly back to Manila.

“He couldn’t get up, literally,” Aznar told students of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication in a forum last month. They were not able to join the convoy led by Mangudadatu’s wife on Nov. 23, 2009.

When news came about the worst incident of electoral violence and single deadliest attack on the press—the Ampatuan Massacre — Aznar and Espina were shocked. “We could have been there. We escaped death,” Aznar said.

Espina recalled how he had felt his knees weaken at the news, as realization hit him all at once that he had avoided death. Thirty-two of the 58 victims were members of the media like Espina and Aznar.

“It was really a turning point in the history of Philippine media,” Aznar said.

Jes Aznar at the forum. (Photo by UJP- UP Diliman)

Horrors relived

Aznar and Espina immediately flew back to Mindanao and, along with Rowena Paraan, then NUJP secretary general, were among the first to go to the site of the tragedy.

“As soon as we get there, what greeted our NUJP team was a soldier shouting as he guided the backhoe operator scoop dirt, and as we look closer, along with it were dead bodies,” Espina recalled.

Until now, Espina confessed he could still visually imagine the looping image of the backhoe’s shovel diving then being lifted again.

“At the end of our first day at the scene, there were just 25 bodies excavated. Then they called off the excavation. As we left, I asked myself, ‘Putcha, when will the counting of bodies end?’”

For Paraan,the stench of decaying bodies lingered in her memory.

Under the scorching heat of noon, the NUJP team approached the rolling hills of sitio Malating, barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao and stepped on to the unpaved road.

“As we arrived, they were digging out the van of UNTV. It was flattened and despite of it being really hammered with the paint almost all scratched out, you can still make out the ‘tres’,” said Paraan.

As Paraan narrated the horrifying scene she witnessed, the crowd of young journalists listened intently, most of them barely out of elementary when the massacre happened.

Paraan at the forum. (Photo by UJP-UP Diliman)

Aznar described it as “a frightening scenario.”

He said he was more afraid to what would then become of his profession as a journalist if anyone could just kill a journalist. He couldn’t help but think that he was wearing the same press ID as those who were being dug out —a once powerful tool and protection for mediamen.

Reigning impunity

Remembering it ten years later, it pains Espina that until now, the case is still yet to conclude.

“The government and the state remain unbothered by the massacre, considering they were the victims of the agents of state itself,” Espina told Bulatlat in an online interview.

He added that with the current political climate, one cannot doubt that the culture of impunity continuously reigns, worsening by each killing perpetuated by those in power.

Just this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released the Global Impunity Index ranking the Philippines fifth as most dangerous country in the world. The Philippines has the highest number of unsolved journalists’ murders in the world, with 41 recorded killings in the past 12 years.

The attacks and harassments continue to persist.

“If justice cannot be found for the worst incident of electoral violence in the country and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded, you can be sure the killings will continue without letup,” said Espina. #

Police sergeant, retired corporal and civilian to be charged for broadcaster’s murder

Authorities are preparing charges against a police sergeant, a retired police corporal and a civilian for the murder of Dumaguete City broadcaster Dindo Generoso yesterday, Thursday, November 7.

Philippine National Police-Negros Oriental acting director Colonel Julian Entoma said they have arrested and are preparing charges against Police Corporal Glenn Corsame and civilian Teddy Reyes Salaw for Generoso’s murder.

The third suspect, identified as Police Sergeant Roger Rubio, remains at large.

Entoma described Corsame as a “non-duty police officer” under the Negros Oriental provincial police office.

Screen grab of suspect Corsame’s file.(PTFoMs image)

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), in announcing the arrests, however said Corsame is already retired. A PTFoMS screen grab of Corsame’s file indicates that he is “optionally retired.”

Generoso, 67, was driving to dyEM Bai Radio where he hosts a radio program at around 7:30 a.m when shot by a gunman riding pillion on a motorcycle.

He died of eight gunshot wounds to the head and body.

The PTFoMS said reports it received indicated that the suspects are in the employ of a powerful politician in the province.

The mastermind and the motive for Generoso’s killing are still the subject of ongoing follow-up operations, PTFoMs said.

Generoso was the second media practitioner killed in Dumaguete since 2018 when Edmund Sestoso was shot on his way home from work on April 31, dying of his injuries the next day.

Sestoso’s killing, on the other hand, remains unsolved.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said should Generoso’s murder be deemed related to his work as a broadcaster, he would be the 14th media practitioner killed in the line of duty under the Duterte administration and the 187th since 1986. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports from Visayas Today)

‘Press freedom is dead if Ampatuans not convicted’ – lawyer

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Lawyer of the families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre Nena Santos said she is confident that a conviction in the ongoing 10-year old case is in the offing.

In a press conference organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Tuesday, Nov. 5, Santos said the Quezon City court is expected to issue a promulgation before the tenth year of the gruesome incident that killed 58 individuals, of whom 32 were journalists.

“We are not sure of the 100% (all 197 accused), but we are sure that the principal accused will be convicted,” Santos said.

Principal suspects include brothers Andal Jr., Zaldy and Sajid Ampatuan, sons of the alleged mastermind Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Santos underscored the significance of the Ampatuan massacre case to the state of press freedom in the country.

“If there would be no conviction, I’m sorry to say press freedom is dead,” Santos said. “(Because it means) impunity, because if nobody gets to jail for killing media people, where is democracy, where is press freedom?”

Asked about the highs and lows of the ten-year trial, Santos said her low points included the deaths of witnesses and some witnesses taking offers of money.

She said, however, that all 30 major witnesses did not recant their testimonies despite threats.

“Their lives are no longer normal. Their lives are in danger,” Santos said.

Santos revealed she herself received many death threats.

“I just have one focus: just handle the case to the best of my ability without any favor or without… falling into any offers of money, influence, position until this case is finally resolved,” Santos said.

Asked why the case has dragged on for 10 years, Santos said the defense “mainly caused the delays.”

The Ampatuan massacre, which took place on Nov. 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao is considered as the single biggest attack on journalists worldwide. #

End Impunity, Free Expression!

Imagine a world without impunity, where everyone is free to exercise their right to freedom of expression and information and able to access, generate and share ideas and information in any way they choose, without fear. We do. 

By: Annie Game

On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, it’s important to recognize the essential link between the right to freedom of expression and the right to information. Journalists are too often the direct targets when either right is under attack, and ultimately — we are all victims. 

Two weeks ago, the UN General Assembly voted to declare 28 September the International Day for Universal Access to Information. A significant victory, following a decade of sustained advocacy by numerous civil society groups, including many African members of the IFEX network. 

Some people — but probably no one involved in the struggle to promote and defend freedom of expression — might have greeted this news of a new UN Day with a shrug.  But they should think again, for our right to information is inseparable from our right to expression, and both are increasingly under attack.

Threats to information are coming in many forms — from attacks on journalists, to deliberate disinformation, to the obstruction of newspapers — and the impacts are far-reaching: keeping people from the information they need to engage with the issues they care about, exacerbating political polarisation, and undermining democracy.

Let’s take a recent high-profile example of the power of expression, and its reliance on access to information. 

Last month, an estimated 6 million people took to the streets in response to the climate change crisis. The creativity of their protests inspired many as they marched; expression in action, emboldened by facts.  

Swedish climate activist Greta Thurnberg implored us to “listen to the scientists” — but what if the voices we need to listen to are silenced, directly or indirectly? 

Voices can be silenced through censorship, or drowned out in a sea of disinformation. But in a growing number of instances, the silencing tactic used is murder. Murder without consequences. Murder with impunity.

A comprehensive study released in August 2019 revealed that killings of environmental activists have doubled over the past 15 years. In 90% of those cases no one has been convicted — a shocking level of impunity, matched by those of murdered journalists.

As we mark another International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, this deadly form of censorship is never far from our thoughts.

UNESCO’s list of journalists who have been killed around the world — over a thousand since 2006 — is a sobering reminder. The proportion of women among fatalities has also risen, with women journalists facing increased gender-specific attacks.

Of the 207 journalists killed between January 2017 and June 2019, more than half were reporting on organized crime, local politics and corruption. 

Their right to expression was ended, forever, to stop them from sharing information. 

Every time such a crime goes unpunished, it emboldens others. Those who would share information in the public interest rightfully ask themselves – is this worth my life?  Is it worth putting my family at risk? And if they decide that it is not, who can blame them? The ripple effects of impunity are endless.

That is why, for over eight years, the IFEX network has campaigned to end impunity for crimes against journalists and all those exercising their right to freedom of expression.

It’s not work that lends itself to quick successes. As the expression goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The work does not end with finding the perpetrators; states must be held accountable for allowing or encouraging a climate of impunity in which such crimes flourish. 

We embrace every win, large and small. The good news is that at IFEX we are seeing creative, collaborative, and powerful new strategies, and tangible progress. 

In the past 12 months, we’ve seen the truth finally coming to light in The Gambia about the 2004 killing of journalist Deyda Hydara; a landmark ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that found the government of Colombia culpable in the 1998 murder of Nelson Carvajal Carvajal, and the historic decision by the Inter-American Commission to take to the Court the case of the brutal attack in May 2000 that nearly took the life of investigative journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima. 

Just two weeks ago, we welcomed the decision by Kyrgyzstan to re-open the 12-year old case of the murder of journalist Alisher Saipov, following sustained pressure by IFEX and its local members the Media Policy Institute and Public Association Journalists. 

Imagine, these cases represent a combined 66 years of impunity.

So let those responsible for — or contemplating — violence against journalists, hear this loud and clear: long after the world’s attention may have moved on, you may think you have gotten away with murder. No. Those of us committed to fighting impunity are persistent. We do not give up. So you can never rest easy.For us, the culture of impunity surrounding attacks on journalists represents one of the single greatest threats to freedom of expression worldwide. The progress we have made toward ending impunity would never have been possible without the resilience, persistence, and tenacity of those who fight it.

We must use our freedom of expression, to defend it. We must use it to call out crimes against journalists, and end impunity. #

——-
The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is one day, but this important work goes on year-round. I invite you to watch this short video and be inspired by the growing number of ways people around the world are working to end impunity and make it safer to be a journalist. Annie Game is the Executive Director of IFEX, the global network promoting and defending freedom of expression and information.

(This piece is a pooled editorial between IFEX and the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. Kodao is an Altermidya member.)

Doctor, family receive death threats

An activist doctor and professor received death threats against himself and his family mere hours after joining a rally demanding a bigger 2020 budget for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

Dr. Gene Nisperos, president of the All UP Academic Employees Union-Manila Chapter (AUPAEU-Manila), received a text message Monday night, October 21, saying he and his family would be killed soon.

The death threat received by Nisperos Monday night. It was redacted to hide the condominium’s address and the date when the perpetrators said they will carry out the attack.

“I know where your condominium is. We will get your family one by one…You are dead by…including your children and wife,” the message in part said.

The message was sent by an unidentified person through mobile phone number +639567955995.

Nisperos told Kodao he blames the climate of violence created by the Rodrigo Duterte government against those who seek substantial reforms and genuine change in Philippine society for the latest threats against him and his wife, also a doctor.

“The climate under the Duterte government has fostered the kind of violence inflicted on those who stand for what is just and right. Sa panahon ngayon, ang gumawa ng kabutihan at manindigan sa tama ang siyang tinutugis. Naghahasik na takot dahil sa takot dinadaan ang pamumuno. Dapat ito labanan. Sa lahat ng anyo. Sa lahat ng pagkakataon,” Nisperos said. (In these times, those who do good and stand for what is right are persecuted. It is sowing fear because it rules by fear. This must be opposed in whatever form and whenever it occurs.)

The threat received by Nisperos Tuesday morning.

As he was being interviewed by Kodao online, Nisperos received another threat from the same number Tuesday morning.

He however clarified that it was not him who issued the challenge to government officials to line up at government hospitals.

“It was at a different press conference by other doctors who challenged (Department of Health secretary Francisco) Duque and other government officials to line up at government hospitals. I was not even there,” Nisperos clarified.

Nisperos spoke at a rally at the PGH lobby last Monday, demanding a P10 billion budget for the country’s premiere government hospital.

A graduate of UP College of Medicine’s prestigious Intarmed program, Nisperos and wife, Dr. Julie Caguiat, served as community doctors in Mindanao before returning to Metro Manila to advocate for community-based health programs on the national level.

Nisperos is a professor at their alma mater.

Duterte government as suspects

The AUPAEU-Manila condemned the most recent death threats against Nisperos and family.

“Following months of profiling, red-tagging, vilification, threats, and harassment of members in other AUPAEU chapters, the Union sees this as a continuation of the attacks to activists, teachers, and unionists perpetuated by State security forces under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte,” the group said.

“This threat comes at a time when the AUPAEU-Manila is calling on all faculty, administrative staff, and REPS of the university to unite against the impending budget cut for the University of the Philippines, particularly on the UP Manila and Philippine General Hospital (PGH), regularization of contractual workers, among others,” it added.

The union said the threats are attempts to sow fear among teachers and unionists who assert for their rights and to fight for a higher state subsidy for social services such as education and health.

“[O]ur Union will not tremble in the face of vicious repressive measures and increasingly fascist attacks by this administration,” AUPAEU-Manila said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gunmen kill Kidapawan broadcaster

A broadcaster was shot dead late Wednesday night, July 10, as he was driving home after his regular radio program in Kidapawan City in Mindanao.

Eduardo Dizon of Brigada News FM was waylaid by two men reportedly riding in tandem on a motorcycle.

The victim managed to drive on for some distance but died immediately after, reports said.

He suffered five gunshot wounds on his torso.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned Dizon’s murder and said he may be the 13th journalist killed under the Rodrigo Duterte government and 186th since 1986.

The NUJP said Dizon’s murder was likely related to his work as a broadcaster.

“We have confirmed that a few days before his death, he had filed a report with the Kidapawan police after he received a challenge to a ‘duel’ and his station’s hotline received a text message from mobile number 09353435064 that said: ‘Bantay mo Brigada mamatay unya mo bantay2 mo kay naa mupusil ninyo,’ the NUJP said in its statement today. (Watch out Brigada because you will die, just wait someone will shoot you.)

Kodao sources said that Dizon had been critical of the alleged Kapa Worldwide Ministry Ponzi scheme that Duterte ordered stopped.

The NUJP said Dizon’s murder again underscores how the overwhelming failure of government to ensure justice for violent crime can only invite even more bloodshed by perpetrators emboldened by the certainty that they can literally get away with murder.

“We demand that authorities solve Dizon’s murder and ensure the perpetrators are caught and successfully prosecuted,” the NUJP said.

The group said it demands that government do its duty and end the culture of impunity that continues to embolden those for whom violence is the preferred means to resolve disputes. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Death threat vs activists sent to Bayan-Negros leader after Patigas murder

By Visayas Today

The secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros received a death threat directed against him and other activist leaders just hours after Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas was murdered.

Mike dela Concepcion said a series of text messages was sent to his phone from the number +639999019988 just before 8 p.m.

Patigas, a survivor of the September 20, 1985 Escalante massacre who went into human rights work and sustained his advocacy even after entering politics, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen as he returned from campaigning around 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 22.

The message to Dela Concepcion began with “Condolences,” then went on to say, “Nagsugod kmi sang priority, ikaw, si Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly kg alyas Tatay Ogie nga ara makaita sa Silay kag Liberted. Ini tanan amo prioridad nga tapuson sa sini nga tuig.”

(We have begun our priority, you, Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly and alias Tatay Ogie who can be found in Silay and Libertad. All these are priorities we have to finish this year.)

Clarissa refers to Clarissa Singson, secretary general of Karapatan-Negros; Roque to Rolando Rillo, chairman of the National Federation of Sugar Workers; Nolie to Noli Rosales, secretary general of the Kilusang Mayo Uno-Negros; Aldren to NFSW regional vice chairman Aldrin Aloquina; Cristian is apparently NFSW regional secretary general Christian Tuayon; Rey Alburo of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, of which Patigas was formerly secretary general; Dolly Celedonio of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Negros; and Hernani “Tay Ogie” Barros of the NFSW.

All the names mentioned in the text messages have been openly accused of being supporters or members of the communist rebel movement. Some of them have had charges filed against them for their supposed involvement with the rebels.

In a related development, Cristina Palabay, national secretary general of Karapatan, said she also received the same text message from the same number roughly around the time Dela Concepcion did. #